The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

“The second click is when it starts to become interesting: A user that we attracted wants to get more of our content, our service.”

We all remember when the wall between editorial and technology began tumbling down a few years ago: Developers were suddenly “allowed” into the newsroom, storytelling started to become a collaborative effort, and initiatives like Hacks/Hackers brought the formerly divided worlds closer together.

anita-zielinaWell, guess what: There’s another wall that needs to fall, and 2017 will be the year when we will start to tear it down — the one between editorial and marketing.

Every media organization that’s not operating based purely on reach and advertising wants to sell products to its users. It’s the ultimate goal, because many of us know advertising alone won’t sustain our journalism.

Until recently, most media outlets basically hoped that visitors would somehow magically convert to paying subscribers when they bumped into a paywall. Sales funnel? Conversion strategies? Retention rates? These words weren’t part of the digital news industry vocabulary for a long time.

But the reality is a user’s first click creates very little value per se, besides creating an ad impression. The second click is when it starts to become interesting: A user that we attracted wants to get more of our content, our service. He stays longer, registers for our newsletter, takes part in a survey, signs up for an event: Now we’re talking. We’ve managed to engage a potential customer and make him identifiable. From now on, we can address him with specific and personalized offers and content. Which leads, finally, to the ultimate proof of engagement: Our user buys a product we sell. We managed to create a lead and convert this lead into a paying subscriber.

What’s unique and powerful in media is that we own the digital sales funnel. Our websites, apps, newsletters, and e-papers are the product, but they are in a sense the marketing machine as well. Once you see it this way, it’s obvious why we need to get our journalists, our marketing people, our social media teams, and our engagement editors at the same table.

Our content sells our products, so the people who are in charge of sales need to be close to the content creators. Diverse teams on the intersection of technology, marketing, product, and journalism will help make our paywalls and digital subscription models effective.

Several subscription-oriented news organizations are already deep into experimenting with the effectiveness of specific content to drive conversion. The Wall Street Journal recently identified that more than half of its subscription sales now come from individual story pages. The New York Times and the Financial Times have started to work with propensity modeling, a statistical method to predict user behavior, to drive their conversion rate.

Different groups of users are engaged by different kinds of content, and they react to different kinds of offers. Our task is to identify what a specific user likes about us, deliver it to him, and offer him a subscription targeted to his needs. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty neat: We can use and customize our core product to drive our sales.

Anita Zielina is chief product officer for NZZ Media Group in Zurich.

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Trushar Barot   API or die

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love