“We want to create emotional touch points that strengthen our existing readers’ loyalty to our brand, but also reach new people who haven’t been on our platform yet, to give them a first impression through one of our verticals,” says Bettina Widmer, of Switzerland’s Blick Group.
During the past couple years, Blick has doubled down on its strategy to reach and engage target audiences.
Today, the company has three verticals on its website that each focus on a specific audience: the environmentally conscious, homeowners and wine lovers.
In addition, the Zurich-based publisher has launched two other verticals that exist outside Blick’s main site: 26 Summits is a portal for people interested in hiking, while Winter Awards focuses on winter sports enthusiasts.
Bettina Widmer, Head of Vertical Hub at Blick Group, joined WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media India 2023 conference in New Delhi to discuss the company’s portfolio of audience verticals and the strategic decision to focus on target audiences.
“We aim to present niche topics that appeal to new audiences, attracting them to our page,” she said.
“We want to create emotional touch points that strengthen our existing readers’ loyalty to our brand, but also reach new people who haven’t been on our platform yet, to give them a first impression through one of our verticals.”
The strategy to build audience verticals was further boosted by Blick’s participation in the Table Stakes Europe programme in 2022. Designed primarily for local and regional news organisations, Table Stakes Europe is a WAN-IFRA programme in partnership with Google News Initiative that helps news publishers drive digital revenue growth by re-focusing on audiences.
Audience verticals for environment, wine, homeowners
One of the publisher’s website sections that is aimed at a specific audience focuses on climate and environment. It covers the topic of sustainability. The vertical, called “Green,” is sponsored by a Swiss power producer.
Another audience vertical is aimed at people who are interested in wine. It includes advice from two wine experts, such as how to behave at a wine tasting and how to evaluate the quality of a wine.
This vertical also has a commercial partner, a wine retailer from Switzerland. Widmer pointed out the click rate on ads in this section is higher than Blick’s average.”
“The reason why is very simple: we target a specific audience, people who are passionate about wine.”
A third vertical focuses on homeowners. To develop this audience, Blick built an interdisciplinary team during their Table Stakes Europe participation, grouping together a lifestyle journalist, a business journalist, and a community editor.
The content in this vertical aims to answer the specific needs of homeowners. To better know what these needs are, the section features surveys that allow readers to send in their questions and comments.
It also features forms that let readers provide feedback on how helpful the articles are and what else they would like to read about, Widmer said. “We receive a lot of feedback there, and our engagement on those stories is very high.”
26 Summits: vertical for hikers
The publisher has also launched two other verticals that exist on their own sites outside Blick’s main website. This lets them be more flexible to develop these products in a very short time, Widmer said.
“One of the most favourite things for Swiss people to do in summer is going on a hike,” she said, so naturally one of the audience verticals is aimed at hikers.
Called 26 Summits, this vertical was launched in 2020, just when the pandemic had caused a lockdown and many things were closed but hiking was still possible.
The website features 26 hiking trails across the country. If readers hike any of them all the way up, each summit has a sign with a QR code that they can scan to earn points and prizes.
This campaign is in cooperation with a sports retailer in Switzerland.
During the past three years, the site has had more than 3 million pageviews, and 25,000 people have registered on it (to earn points and prizes you must register). “So that’s how we drive registrations through the vertical,” Widmer said.
“We have a very lovely community. They are sharing their best hiking moments on social media with us or sending us messages with feedback,” she added. “Most of the people do more than one hike, which is really impressive.”
Targeting winter sports fans
Blick’s other vertical outside its own website is also dedicated to outdoor activities: the publisher’s campaign Winter Awards is aimed at winter sports enthusiasts.
The campaign lets people vote for the best ski resort in Switzerland in six categories. Users need to register to vote and can enter a raffle and win prizes. The website also features information about various ski resorts.
The 2022/23 edition, in which 76 ski resorts participated, was the second time the awards were organised. Blick’s different channels were used to raise awareness about the awards, with the campaign being covered in the print edition, website and the company’s TV channel.
The participating ski resorts also received flyers, posters and other materials that included a QR code for voting in the awards, thus making it easy for them to encourage their visitors to vote.
Overall, the campaign generated over 600,000 page views and 10,000 new registrations.
The winning ski resorts were announced in an award show, which was a B2B event gathering celebrities and sports people.