Three questions with head of digital content, Markus Hofmann
SO - In this article (published on INMA) you wrote about the main focus at BZ being bringing growth and increasing your subscriber base. Why is this important, and what were the challenges you were facing trying to accomplish that?
MH - The fate of most newspapers is defined by their ability to grow a paying subscriber base for digital content. This is crucial because in the digital world advertising revenue is no longer as important as it was in the age of the printing press - and it certainly isn’t as reliable an income stream. Our hypothesis is that the more relevant and engaging the content of a news company is, the better it can grow its subscriber base. Smartocto helps us to identify our most engaging content – and to understand which factors are attributable to its success.
SO - Were there any other (side) challenges you were trying to solve? (optimising digital distribution strategy, making the newsrooms more efficient or helping the editorial be more in-line with the audience demands …?) and why are these challenges also important to BZ?
MH - One of the biggest challenges of digital transformation is how editors combine good old-fashioned gut feeling with decisions which are data-driven. There is an assumption that these are mutually exclusive, but of course that’s far from true. Both are important in the digital newsroom, and our task is to help editors find space for both. Smartocto’s article score helps our editors to sharpen their eyes for the best content in a data-driven way - and it’s a non-threatening way to do so.
SO - Critically, did it work?
MH - Well, since May 2020 we can report that the total customer base of BZ [print and digital] is no longer shrinking. It’s the first growth we’ve been able to report with this metric for more than a decade. Our hypothesis was that the more relevant and engaging the content of a news company is, the better it can grow its subscriber base. You have to stay focused and produce really good journalism, but we’ve shown it’s possible.