How Gannett has improved the user’s journey with a customer-driven approach

Did you know that Gannett’s brands reach 50 percent of the U.S. digital population, including more Millennials than Buzzfeed?

That’s a big reach, especially among a coveted demographic like Millennials.

On the Local Media Association’s next Innovation Mission in Washington, D.C., attendees will get a deep dive into Gannett’s audience development strategy, and how the company is translating this into meaningful revenue.

Gannett is making investments in digital brands that are attracting younger audiences like Reviewed.com and FoodBlogs.com. And video franchises like Humankind are cultivating highly-engaged audiences across a variety of platforms.

Top executives, including the CMO and SVP of Consumer Products, will provide an under-the-hood look at the company’s strategy, and what’s working best across its network of local properties.

We caught up with a variety of leaders at Gannett to learn more about what they are doing:

How has USA TODAY NETWORK improved the user’s journey with subscriptions and membership?

We’ve taken a customer-driven approach that’s fueled by data and insights to continually improve and optimize the full customer lifecycle from acquisition to retention.

To further strengthen the value of our subscription offerings, we’ve launched several initiatives designed to increase overall engagement and activation of subscriber benefits.  Based on customer feedback, we deployed new onboarding and retention communications that not only help connect subscribers to key account management features, but also increase their awareness and engagement with our digital content and programming, such as newsletters, podcasts, and mobile apps.  As a result, we are exceeding our goal for digital activation (for home delivery customers) and have also seen impressive growth in digital usage for new subscribers – a leading indicator of engagement and subscriber retention.

We also continue to add new features and benefits to our subscription products, such as subscriber-exclusive newsletters and other lifestyle content and programming.  Finally, our loyalty program continues to drive meaningful engagement with subscribers, resulting in higher repeat visits, time spent, and retention amongst program participants.

From an operational perspective, we’ve used customer insights and data to focus on improving service and delivery for our subscribers.  We’ve included improved and more detailed customer data in our delivery and distribution reports to help carriers understand where improvements need to be made based on repeat complaints and customer types.  We’ve also increased communications and new onsite modules promoting self-service, resulting in lower cost-to-serve and customer effort for routine account-related transactions.

By leveraging our customer data in more ways throughout the organization, we’ve collectively focused on listening to our customers and improving the subscriber journey through deepen engagement and retention.

— Amy Shioji – VP, Customer Experience

USA TODAY NETWORK has worked hard to create a good balance between user experience and driving needed revenue. What has the trick been to your success in this area?

We leverage insights from our Voice of the Customer program to identify and address discrete pain points for specific audience segments. It’s helped us shift from reacting to and reverse-engineering a decline, to a model where we can get ahead of issues before they affect too many users.

We’ve worked to create a test-and-learn culture, so we can validate that potential solutions have the intended outcome for both audience engagement and advertising revenue before rolling them out across our national Network. One advantage of our size is that we can A/B test changes in any number of local markets, reaching statistical significance in a matter of hours, and project impact at broader scale. The confidence we enjoy from all of those factors played a big part in our shift from sound-on to muted auto-play desktop video, earlier this year. We were able to maintain ad revenue while addressing one of our readers’ top complaints.

— Jason Jedlinski – SVP/Head of Consumer Products

Humankind is a pretty unique platform. Tell us about the platform and how the company is using it across its network?

Humankind launched as part of the company’s Innovation Challenge, meaning it was an organic proposal from our journalists. Its design was to share life’s moments through “feel good” stories of everyday people who connect, engage, inspire and give us hope. Humankind is a native and distributed content execution, living on both USA TODAY, across USA TODAY NETWORK and our associated social platforms. Nearly 75% of the stories that run in the franchise originate in some way from our local journalists, properties and communities around the country.

After starting with one franchise, Humankind, we’ve expanded over the past two years to include extensions like Animalkind and Militarykind. In just over a year, and since launching officially on Facebook Watch, we’ve earned more than 12M followers for the ‘Kind franchises. This year, we’ll celebrate more than 4.6B views on Facebook, monetized through mid-roll advertising.

— Humankind: Russ Torres – VP, Video Content and Strategy  

What kind of opportunities have events provided USA TODAY NETWORK when it comes to engagement and revenue?

USA TODAY NETWORK Events provide local, regional and national brands the opportunity to efficiently expand their experiential marketing efforts.  We help brands broaden awareness, build loyalty, and create deep personal connections through proven, successful events – at scale.

In 2018, USA TODAY NETWORK Events produced over 500 events, engaged over a half-million live audiences, and partnered with hundreds of sponsors to help grow their businesses (www.events.usatoday.com).  We tap into our deep local community roots while leveraging our national media power to produce exciting experiences for communities across the country.  All of our diverse and unforgettable events are supported by our authentic USA TODAY NETWORK content and robust promotion to drive results outside of the traditional “day-of” onsite activities.  Our national-to-local network of market audiences, original content, unprecedented digital media reach, and customized local on-site activation allows advertisers to extend and amplify their message throughout the calendar year.

— Events: Doug Wilson – VP, Strategic Brand Marketing

You can sign up for our next Regional Innovation Mission here.