Paid digital subscriptions for DC Thomson’s daily news brands (The Courier, The Press and Journal, Evening Telegraph and Evening Express) have this month passed 25,000 paid subscribers, 18 months into the company’s ambitious drive to build a new, sustainable model for local journalism.
The shift to a digital-first approach saw the complete transformation of the newsrooms, with every member of staff taking new roles, and new teams created to concentrate on building deep expertise in individual areas such as crime & courts, health & wellbeing, environment & transport, all viewed from a local perspective.
Specific audience development, insight and data positions were created to give the teams understanding of the needs and wants of their readers. A content development function was built to further develop specialist skills such as data journalism and in-depth investigations.
The success of a story isn’t measured by the number of clicks it receives but by a ‘quality reads’ metric, identifying how much of an article has been read, putting high standards of reporting and engagement at the core of the work.
This emphasis on excellence in journalism was recognised at September’s Scottish Press Awards with The Courier being awarded website of the year and The Press and Journal taking daily newspaper of the year. As well as the title awards, staff working across DC Thomson’s daily news brands won prizes including best local feature writer, best campaign, best columnist, best local reporter and best podcast.
The focus of encouraging audiences to pay for news shifted from solely being tied to digital replicas of the printed products towards true digital-first subscription products, focused on delivering our communities more value from the content that the newsrooms produce. Research shows that subscribers place the most value in ‘up-to-the minute’ news, available to them at any time of day.
Print continues to be a crucial part of the news mix, with more stories, an increased focus on supplements and reader participation. In particular, the P&J’s Saturday edition has been recently redesigned to substantially increase the breadth and depth of coverage with increased pagination and a renewed focus on features.
Frank O’Donnell, editor of the Press and Journal said: “25k subscribers is a significant milestone on our journey to developing a sustainable digital newsroom.
“Having only launched in May last year, we are ahead of target and confident that the changes we have made in content, structure, product and audience-focus are delivering results.
“We must now keep listening to our audiences to deepen our understanding of what readers want from us.”
David Clegg, editor of The Courier, said: “This is an encouraging early success for our strategy of making journalism worth paying for.
“It is a tribute to the deep connection we have with our communities that so many thousands of people have chosen to support us on this journey.
“I want to thank our readers for helping us build a sustainable future for The Courier’s quality journalism.”