[Editors note: We are republishing an article that looks into the evolution of Reach PLC digital strategy, that might be behind the readership growth. This piece was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.]
Reach plc, the largest commercial national and regional news publisher in the UK, has one of the biggest monthly multi-platform audiences in the UK and over 6 million registered customers. Like most publishers, the company’s online portfolio (70+ news websites) saw a spike in traffic following the worldwide Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
However, the extent of the increase – a 32% bump in page views globally over 2020 – suggests the evolution of the publisher’s digital strategy went beyond merely people staying on their couches for longer. This is borne out by Reach plc’s latest figures which show digital revenue growth of 26% across its portfolio in Q4 2020.
David Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer at Reach, puts the growth down to a renewed focus on data, CRM and newsletters. Speaking to WNIP, Higgerson said, “Our page view increase was thanks to a number of factors (not least the hard work of our talented journalists) but our strategic focus on newsletters played a major role.”
The success of its newsletter strategy has been particularly important, with the publisher now sending now sending out over 300 newsletters covering topics as diverse as Liverpool FC football tactics to its parenting newsletter Lemon-Aid.
Newsletter subscribers visit our websites 30% more than a standard readerDavid Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer, Reach plc
The importance of curated newsletters as a way to engage readers and enhance loyalty can’t be underestimated. The Times of London discovered that over half of its readers considered newsletters to be a ‘vital part of its subscription’, a fact not lost on Silicon Valley with Facebook recently launching newsletter tools (Journalism Project) and Twitter acquiring newsletter platform, Revue.
Reach’s newsletter strategy has been built around creating direct relationships with topics that interest them, whether that be football, politics, local issues and so forth. It has provided them with the ability to experiment with new ideas. The publisher now offers hyper localised newsletters for towns such as Doncaster and Harrogate to better serve readers in the Yorkshire region.
Moreover, through curated newsletters, Reach has been able to work with readers during specific events in the year and foster a close relationship with readers to determine which events truly matter to them. The value does not stop there. Its newsroom has benefited from its newsletter strategy thanks largely to it providing an at-a-glance source for what interests its most loyal readers. Through this very approach, the publisher saw which type of Covid and lockdown coverage were the most valuable to readers.
Leveraging the power of data
But it’s the use of data, and teasing out useful, revenue-generating strategies that have played just as large a role as newsletters in Reach’s success. With 5 million registered subscribers, Higgerson told WNIP that, “Our scale makes us uniquely poised to take advantage of an increased focus on data and CRM. While rich customer data-driven advertising is common in some spaces – for example with the tech platforms – we believe we’ve got a unique proposition in the news brand space, combining rich data with mass reach.”
In December the publisher launched the ReachID which enables a unified view of customer behaviour across its entire digital portfolio. Gaining insights across a user’s activity has not just been used to offer more targeted and relevant advertising campaigns for brands and agencies, but it was a prime engine behind the launch of Reach’s hyperlocal news aggregator InYourArea which tailors news to the postcode of the reader.
InYourArea was the third most downloaded UK news app in 2020. For Reach, it delivered an additional 92 million pageviews across our networkDavid Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer, Reach plc
Working with customer data platform BlueVenn, with whom Reach recently signed a three-year partnership, will also see Reach plc launch data-led advertising products Audience+ and Customer+, as well as supplementing them all with BlueVenn’s AI-driven Mantis technology giving better brand safety and contextual targeting. Through its partnership with BlueVenn, Reach will be focusing on further developing engagement and loyalty across its nine national and over 110 regional titles and 70+ websites.
Steve Klin, CEO of BlueVenn said, “We work with over 25 news media and publishing organisations that utilise our Customer Data Platform (CDP) technology to reduce data silos and enable better insights that power more personalised subscription marketing and customer intelligence. Our CDP acts as the foundation of the data layer in a martech stack, which enables our customers to run highly targeted campaigns and be better informed about their subscribers. Through our customer data platform, Reach will benefit from our vast experience and leverage our data and analytical capabilities to create richer relationships than ever before.”