Flash back to the start of last year – one of “extensive experimentation and a dash of desperation” to when Crikey brainstormed the idea of an editorial series as a marketing campaign.
Head of reader revenue Jane Mahoney says in an INMA ideas blog that having learned that “nothing drives subscriptions like a news cycle that is well capitalised on”, teams looked at what would happen if they reversed the reactive approach of launching a marketing campaign when there was a strong news week or a solid editorial series going live.
In January 2021 while brainstorming the year ahead, they looked at the possibility of reverse-engineering an editorial series to be used as a marketing campaign instead of running marketing campaigns in reaction to editorial activities.
With the editorial team “game to try it”, marketers looked for ideas and, through a combination of newsroom intuition, social data and traffic data, came up with corruption as the series topic, with what became The Dirty Country: Lifting the lid on corruption in Australia.
“Back in the marketing department, we planned how we would promote the series and use it to convert our pool of around 80,000 free newsletter subscribers to paying subscribers and hit our acquisition target of eight per cent overall growth in our subscriber base during Q1,” says Mahoney.
The series of 13 instalments was published over the course of a week and a half, promoted via a daily pop-up newsletter sent to free newsletter subscribers. In addition to calls-to-action encouraging readers to subscribe throughout, the introduction to each newsletter, written personally by our editor-in-chief or the journalist whose story was featured, would include a push to subscribe as well.
To promote the series and convert users to paying subscribers, Crikey ran an accompanying social media and email marketing campaign with a discounted sign-up offer over two weeks, and used the campaign to test whether editorial video content would work as marketing assets, which she says, “we found to be highly successful”.
Free morning newsletter and weekend newsletters, sent to most non-paying subscribers, were also used to also promote the series and the offer.
“If there was an asset onsite or offsite we could use to promote the series, we took it,” she says.
Paying subscribers received the series as part of their usual daily dispatches via email, and were also shown ads in newsletters and onsite promoting the series, to reinforce the value of their Crikey membership.
The Crikey Talks digital series was also used to run an event on the topic of corruption as part of the campaign. “We promoted this to our free newsletter subscribers as a means of encouraging additional sign ups midway through the campaign,” says Mahoney.
Final result of the campaign – among other things – was 12.26 per cent growth of subscriber base in Q1, while the Crikey Talks event also broke sign-up and attendance records.
Mahoney attributes its success to collaboration between departments, saturating the network with the series and offer, and finally, “putting our journalism and journalists at the forefront of our marketing.
“It sounds straightforward, but at the end of the day, folks don’t subscribe to Crikey because of a slick marketing campaign. They subscribe because of our journalism and the journalists who produce it.
“Though of course, a great marketing campaign doesn’t hurt!”
And with Crikey now facing a defamation action from Lachlan Murdoch, neither perhaps, did its willingness to mention the "M-word" in its videos, as it does in this YouTube clip.