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From the unbanked to the unnewsed: Just doing good journalism won’t be enough to bring back reader trust
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June 27, 2014, 12:26 p.m.
Business Models
LINK: www.netnewscheck.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   June 27, 2014

Back in March, we told you about one of my favorite new newspaper business ideas: The Washington Post’s effort to build its outside-D.C. audience through partnerships with local newspapers around the country. The deal: A small set of dailies — including two of my former employers, The Dallas Morning News and The Toledo Blade — would be able to offer their paying subscribers free digital access to The Washington Post. It’s a perk for local customers, and more readers for the Post. No money changes hands.

At NetNewsCheck, Michael Depp follows up with the partner papers and finds some evidence of interest from subscribers:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that 7,000 of its subscribers signed on for free access to the Post’s digital content after only five days and one promotional email. The Strib is one of six papers participating in the initial pilot, which offers premium subscribers of those papers free access to the Post’s entire suite of digital products.

“This really opened my eyes,” says Steve Yeager, VP of marketing and public relations for the Strib. “You try different promotions all the time and you’re happy if you get to three digits.”

Add in (rough) results from Dallas, Toledo, and Pittsburgh — and extrapolate for Honolulu and Milwaukee — and you’re probably looking at something like 15,000 to 18,000 subscribers who’ve signed up Washington Post access. (More papers have since joined the program.) That’s a relatively small share of those papers’ total subscriber base — but apparently a desirable enough asset for some to take the step of registering. That’s more online readers for the Post, another small reason for loyalty for the local papers, and a good-if-small deal all around.

“What’s really great about this program is the lack of conflict between the business goals of the Washington Post and us,” [Jim Bernard, the Strib’s SVP of digital] says. “Our subscribers are getting an incremental value and are also going to be engage on the Post’s website in a way that will help it and help us retain them. There’s a very interesting and surprising win-win.”

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