Best Advice (Part VII): Winning Loyalty From A Digital Audience

Relevance Project fans, there are three more installments to go in our words of wisdom series.

I’ve isolated the remaining advice from my overflowing archive of pictures taken during 50 or so virtual workshops, webinars and Zoom panel discussions over the summer and fall of 2020.

Most of the pictures were edited to crop out the top of my laptop keyboard, a glare on the screen, or a bad angle (hey, I’m taking notes and locating the photo button at the same time). I also tried to zero in so the viewer could best read the points despite the different type sizes, colors and graphics.

Enough on the background. On to No. 7:


One of most closely watched transformation projects is in Arkansas where WECHO Media Inc. is giving subscribers iPads to read their newspaper.

In August, Jay Horton, president of WEHCO Digital, provided an update at the LMA Summit that focused on efforts to keep longtime print subscribers as well as to retain revenue because the digital experience was equal or better than reading a newsprint product.

Two slides, in particular, made a convincing case. One shows the expectations for a longtime relationship with iPad subscribers, based on research and survey results.

The other slide approximates the revenue factor as measured by “Customer Lifetime Value.” Horton added that the company expects to see a return of three times the $320 cost of an iPad that comes with the subscription to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

To lock in reader satisfaction, WECHO Media added to its customer service, which includes one-on-one instructions on how to use the iPad, the digital edition and the related app. 

In addition, it was interesting to see WECHO also upgrade the readers’ experience with ads to encourage dynamic use. Here’s Horton’s list of new capabilities.

Higher levels of ad usage also have a special benefit: supporting high-quality journalism.  We all look forward to 2021 updates from WEHCO.


If you want to be a workshop speaker, do something bold to bring in digital revenue when it’s your time to lead. 

Liz White, publisher at the family-owned Record-Journal in Connecticut, installed a “FactsAren’tFree” Team to secure new digital subscriptions and attract donations. When you’re the fifth generation to run a newspaper, diversification and growth opportunities becomes your focus.  

White shared the results from the 65-day campaign: 121 new digital subscription, a 16% increase; and more than $21,000 from 281 donors. 

In four points, she also captures what made the campaign a success and her team hungry for more.

One more Relevant point: earning donations requires repeated messaging (and thanking), so don’t hide the asks, White adds. Over-communicate is the watchword. 


Google has an outstanding training program for those trying to increase subscription dollars. If you have the opportunity, I recommend signing up for the Google News Initiative’s Digital Growth Program Reader Revenue curriculum. 

Here’s one of the best summaries of key strategies that can lead to reader revenue victories.

One more from the Google News Initiative about the importance of understanding your audience. 

You think they’re loyal?

How do you know?

This slide offers a Relevant approach to what really determines reader loyalty.  Hint: It’s all about behavior.  And your content. 


Finally, community newspapers’ audiences are built from local journalism. Lucky are the newspapers whose readers believe they’re active participants in the public, or village, square. 

A reader sent me the following drawing after reading my commentary for National Newspaper Week in October. 

Note Earth (“think global, act locally), the “brave journo,” the “fundamental” link between local news and a healthy Democracy, the rallying calls to advertise and subscribe — all wrapped up around a community in tune with its newspaper that’s the village square.

Not all words of wisdom come from workshop experts.  Readers rule, too. 

Back soon with the second-to-last batch of free Relevant advice.

—Tom Silvestri

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