Globe’s Stackhouse on editorial incentives and driving subscriptions
October 09, 2013 | Chris Powell | Comments
The Globe and Mail is introducing a new program that incentivizes approximately 30 section editors, senior digital editors and others in decision-making roles to create, package and presenting compelling content that can help drive subscriptions to its digital product.
The program is being implemented throughout the fall, with results partly determining future pay increases and/or bonuses, said Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse. He stressed that the program is not about simply garnering clicks, but creating loyal audiences – preferably among the national daily’s key target of readers with a household income of at least $100,000, which he described in an internal memo to staff as the Globe’s “tribe.”
“We’re not asking our editors to sell subscriptions, but we do know that content plays an important role in attracting potential subscribers,” Stackhouse told Marketing. “We want the people who drive our content choices to be sharply aware of their ability to help us attract potential subscribers, lead them to conversions, and retain them.
“Digital subscription is the new business model, and journalists have a vested interest to help that model succeed,” he added. “This is a way of incentivizing managers to organize their sections in a way that grows our digital audience.”
Stackhouse acknowledged that some sections, including pillars like national news and business, can lead to more subscriptions than others, but said that other engagement metrics such as page views and time spent would play a role in determining the contribution of other sections like arts and entertainment and sports.
He said that the program will help editors make more strategic choices in terms of content and help the national daily achieve its audience targets. The Globe currently has about 100,000 digital subscribers, approximately one-third of whom are digital only-subscribers.
“Editors have to be mentally agile enough to understand the needs of subscribers versus the journalistic ambitions of the organizations,” said Stackhouse. “Often these go hand-in-hand, but sometimes there are divergences.”
While the incentive program does not include the editorial rank-and-file, Stackhouse said it does impact some of the paper’s higher-profile reporters. “There are many reporters in certain areas of the newsroom that are in a position to engage subscribers and potential subscribers more,” said Stackhouse. “We told them ‘You’ve got a strategic responsibility to help us grow subscriptions’ and in some cases that’s part of the compensation conversation.”
The Globe is also striving to reduce “waste” among its editorial resources. According to a report on the site Journalism.co.uk, publisher and CEO Phillip Crawley told attendees at the World Publishing Expo 2013 in Berlin that 40% of the content produced by the paper is read by less than 1,000 people.
The publication is also introducing a free morning video show in November that will focus on news, business and lifestyle information. The eight-minute show will have an anchor, but will also feature shorter segments that can be distributed via social networks, said Stackhouse. The Globe is actively seeking advertisers for the product, which will include interstitials and sponsorship opportunities.
Stackhouse said that the modern world is awash in media, and it is vital for legacy media brands like the Globe to present content that differentiates them from rivals and creates brand-loyal readers. He said that a Globe story on the demise of Blackberry in a recent weekend edition continues to garner readers, proving that quality journalism still works.