All of us who work in the media have learned that the only thing that is certain in our business lives is that there is no certainty. We need to listen to our media community, change and adapt to the market on a daily basis. You may notice that I intentionally used the word ‘community’, not ‘audience’, and the reason behind that is that this process has not been a one-way street for a long time.
I admit I was partly mistaken when I started Media Daily – a specialised media portal. The idea was good; the knowledge, team and experience were not questionable, and the desire and perseverance both stood at an exceptional level. Still, I was a bit disappointed with the financial outcomes of my new project. There were several reasons for that, so I spent months after starting it to rethink the determinants based on which I embarked on this business venture.
From today’s point of view, I would never do it again
Having in mind that my portal was a subscription-based service, I knew that this feature would be the most complex and most sensitive part of my entrepreneurial endeavour. All the analyses I came across during the project preparation phase stated that an extremely small part of the readership was willing to pay for online news, so for certainty and double-checking sake, I decided to conduct my own analysis before making the investment.
From today’s point of view, I would never do that again.
It is far better to start more cautiously and lower your expectations so you can allocate the money intended for the investment more optimally.
Another mistake was that I designed the web portal in the following manner – We give you news and in return, you give us money for that service. At the beginning, I did not pay full attention to the interaction with our readership. At the time, it seemed to me that the value of the information we published was enough to convert one into our subscriber. It proved, however, that it was not enough, so I had to figure out very quickly how to change the initial unfavourable trends.
Step 1: Building a relationship with the community
At the beginning, we offered all subscribers the opportunity to access the news content free of charge for 15 days which allowed us to create a database of people who have already heard about us and who no longer had to be informed who we were, what we were and what we offered.
We reached those who took advantage of the free period but did not become subscribers via e-mail. We did not insist on the question of why they did not become our subscribers, but rather what they like and what they did not like about the web portal. As a reward for their efforts, we provided them with additional 30 days of free use of the web portal.
We repeat this procedure once a year, each time asking different questions. The survey helped us get to know our readers better and change our business’s direction based on the answers. Of course, by doing this, we managed to gain a certain number of new subscribers.
We didn’t stop there, but it did help and encouraged us to start building our media community.
Step 2: Involve the community in the project
In order to involve as many as possible people in our project, we also came up with voting for the best regional news portal. A total of 30 news portals from 6 countries are among the options to vote for, and the voting itself lasts a month. The winner is chosen after adding the sum of the jury’s points to the vote of readers of these portals, among whom, of course, are the employees of these media outlets who are our primary target group.
The portals announced on their respective website that they were nominated and helped promote the entire project. On the other hand, we managed to engage media professionals to support their companies by voting in the poll, thus expanding our media community even more.
In order to add value to our web portal, in line with the needs of our community, we remain highly active on all social media, where we discuss with our readers current media events and topics that others do not cover.
Step 3: Creating added value
We also launched our own media library. In accordance with the feedback we received from our media community, we published a book on 25 Years of Private Electronic Media in Croatia that was not available on the market and is abounded with historical facts on the development of the media. Ahead of publishing said book, we gathered key people mentioned in the book at a round table organised at the Journalists’ Home in Zagreb. The book was endorsed by the scientific community as a recommended read for journalism students.
We are currently working on two additional books that will be regional editions. These are Sports and Television and The Development of Public Broadcasting Services from 1990 until Today. Wishing to connect with the visitors of the web portal as much as possible, we gift these books to our subscribers. In addition to this, we will offer everyone else to purchase their copy in the Media shop, our web store that has just been launched.
Step 4: Gathering the community further
We planned to gather our media community further by organising appropriate media gatherings, but the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed this activity. Therefore, we engage them in epidemiologically safe online panel discussions that we broadcast live on social networks and then publish such recordings on our YouTube channel. Of course, during the live broadcast, everyone can ask questions to our panellists and thus actively contribute to the discussion and guide the topic of the panel.
Step 5: Offering something new to your community
The engagement of well-known and acknowledged media experts through the Guest Commentator section was a complete hit, and we gained added credibility thanks to it. It is interesting that so far, no one had turned us down when we contacted them to write a piece for our web portal about a specific media situation which, in our humble opinion, could have been elaborated best by the invited commentator.
Thanks to all of the above, our financial results have improved significantly after the initial disappointment. As you can see, negative trends have changed since we started turning our readership into a media community with specific added value. From the current point of view, I know that all of us in the media still have to do that every day.