Spain’s Diario de Navarra refining strategies to boost digital subscribers

During the past year, the staff of Diario de Navarra (DN), a regional news publisher based in Pamplona, Spain, have been intensifying their efforts to drive digital subscriptions. The publisher is also targeting two specific audiences (families and professionals) as part of an effort to move from a generalist audience approach to segmented audiences.

These efforts include a vigorous onboarding programme for new subscribers throughout their first 100 days to encourage them to keep coming back to the DN site. This process also helps make them aware of all the benefits of subscribing, including free access for a friend or relative, Diario de Navarra’s newsletters (some 20 in all) and, of course, the latest articles.

“For us, it’s very important these 100 first days,” says Estefanía Nicolás, DN’s Director of Digital Strategy, Marketing and Sales. “We have to make sure that they come, if not every day, almost every day. If they don’t use the content, they are going to unsubscribe, and we are going to have a high churn rate.”

DN launched its paywall five years ago, at a time when they were relatively rare in Spain.

“For us, the paywall was a kind of soothing strategy for our newsroom because in 2016, our newsroom, as most newsrooms, had the feeling that we were giving our work away for free online,” says Fernando Hernández, who oversees DN’s Arts and Leisure section. “When we started a freemium and then a dynamic paywall, we now know that everybody must pay in some way: seeing the ads, or subscribing, or participating in events, to pay for the news content.”

By the autumn of 2021, DN was reporting impressive results: sales had increased 58.8 percent over the previous year, and they had reduced churn by 60 percent (also compared with the previous year).

Focusing on specific audiences, sections

For DN, their overall goal is to move from a generalist audience business approach to segmented audiences business solutions. DN also aims to shift from being dependent on revenue from its print newspaper to a revenue structure that has multiple formats and where digital is a strategic one.

DN is initially concentrating their efforts on two main audiences as well as two areas of coverage.

The first audience they are focusing on is Families, says Fernando Hernández, adding that this is one they have already been working on for some time. For example, they are using specific editorial products, such as a weekly newsletter that launched in 2019 and has now been published more than 100 times.

In addition, DN has run regular events such as an Expo Family Fair with commercial stands and activities for parents and children. Also throughout the year and under this brand, they offer round tables, book presentations, and so on, he says.

Hernández notes that DN has recently more tightly defined the focus of its audience for this area from families in general to parents who have children enrolled in compulsory education, which in Spain is for children from six to 16 years old. This equates to around 9,000 households in their market area.

In autumn 2021, they had some 2,165 subscribers to the Family newsletter, and their unique readers had increased by more than 28 percent.

The second audience group DN is highlighting is professionals.

“We’re rebooting DN Management, our brand that is oriented to professionals,” he says.

For DN’s purposes, professionals are defined as people who hold middle and upper management positions, as well as certain types of self-employed workers, such as some lawyers and doctors, for example. There are around 18,000 professionals in DN’s target audience in Navarra, Hernández says.

The goal with DN Management is to produce more content beyond wire services and press releases, and serve it to their web readers so they don’t have to wait for the print newspaper, he says.

To do this, they are refining the way they use an in-house developed tool called DNLive, which he described as a simple way to send content to their CMS, as well as to improve control of which content is created by their newsroom, as opposed to articles from wire services or press releases.

DN’s professionals newsletter was reaching around 3,600 subscribers in late 2021, and their uniques had increased by just over 24 percent.

Improving visibility

The next area, opinion, is a core one for DN, Hernández says. He notes they had relaunched it last autumn on their website to improve its visibility. As part of this, the op-ed team revamped articles on their website and also created two new newsletters.

In the first stage, he says the goal was to improve how they showcased the op-ed content in social media, and they have been successful with this. Now, they are working on setting the goal for the second stage, and for this, their plan is to get to know that audience better.

“We want to use Table Stakes methodology to know who our opinion readers are, and enhance how we reach them and use the reactions from readers to design new products,” Hernández says.

By autumn 2021, DN reported they had increased engagement for this section by 35 percent.

DN uses a commercial software tool called Echobox to automatically post all their content on Facebook and Twitter. However, they have started keeping some specific articles from being automatically posted in order to fine tune how they are presented on Facebook, or to use quotes from them on Twitter as well as to create adapted or nuanced headlines.

When DN redesigned the opinion section of their website, they conducted a study among readers and found that more than 75 percent of readers liked the op-ed section. In fact, he says, it was the highest rated section in the newspaper.