Globe has the scoop on social media metrics

Tony Maraschiello    November 13, 2017

It has been through world wars and countless other global conflicts, and survived depressions and recessions along the way. Through it all, the Globe and Mail has faithfully delivered the news to Canadians since 1844.

But with the advent of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, traditional newspapers like the Globe suddenly faced the prospect of a world of information they didn’t directly control. Instead, it was now the readers who began to choose how, where and when they consumed the news. And it became clear fairly quickly that readers were shunning print-based publications for news served up on a digital platter.

In fact, between 2000 and 2015 alone, print newspaper advertising revenue fell from about $60 billion to about $20 billion, wiping out the gains of the previous 50 years.

The digitization of the news threatened the very existence of venerable newspapers around the world, including the Globe.

While not without its digital scars, the Globe today is enjoying a resurgence of sorts. It is thriving with its online content delivery and it’s using the rich data provided by social media metrics to help shape its content and brand strategies.

Leading the national discussion

The Globe and Mail publishes print and digital editions that reach millions of readers, and it has won more national newspaper awards than any other news organization in Canada.

Despite its history of quality news reporting, the struggle for large daily newspapers like the Globe to stay profitable, and survive, is now almost entirely dependent on the race between the continuous drop in print advertising and the improvement of online readership and sales. Sadly, many large dailies in Canada are falling behind in this race and have had to resort to cost-cutting measures, including layoffs.

As content and readers continue to migrate and aggregate online, and as news organizations around the world continue to consolidate, the resulting large media companies have responded by investing large sums of money in interactive features like social media, blogs, reader response tools and video.

For many, however, the investment in online news has not been the success that industry had hoped for.

On the right path

At the Globe, efforts to drive a new business model that combines its century-old news pedigree with the demands of today’s readers have been relatively successful.

While newspapers continue to struggle with how to monetize their online presence, the Globe has at least discovered that its current model is resonating with readers. As of Q1 2017, the Globe enjoyed 6.8 million multi-platform unique visitors – more than ABC News, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal combined.

Buoyed by its online success, the Globe is taking a step further and using its social media ecosystem, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and the resulting metrics as fuel to further drive its strategy, engage with a new generation of readers, and better understand its performance.

Josh Hargreaves, Senior Social Media Manager at the Globe, says his organization is using social media metrics to work more closely with the news team to drive readership.

“We use a proprietary social media tracking tool called ‘Sophie’ to actively monitor our various social media sites. It allows us to go to our editors and reporters and discuss trends and recommended stories to follow. It also helps us determine which stories to promote on our various platforms,” Josh said.

With this type of information, the Globe is able to create highly relevant content, Josh added. The results are far stronger consumer engagement that builds affinity for the Globe’s brand.

The Globe’s Finance Editor Rita Trichur agrees that the availability of rich social media metrics is helping to shape and drive news decisions.

“At our news meetings every morning, our social media manager is in there too updating us on what’s trending. If it stays trending and it’s a hot topic, we pay attention.”

Rita reminded me that good old fashioned human judgment is still the standard when it comes to making decisions on which stories to follow.

The Globe’s new Instagram strategy

About six months ago, the Globe kicked off a strategy to reach a younger demographic of readers – the average age of today’s Globe reader is 46, among the highest of the world’s top news organizations – through its Instagram account. Each morning, the Globe delivers snippets of top news stories to its followers and gives them the option to click through to the Globe’s main site.

“The reader response so far has been fantastic,” Josh says. “What we’re hoping to do is build good reader habits, so that when they’re looking for news, they know they can come to us.”

The positive results gleaned through the Globe’s social media metrics have led to its reporters viewing social media as an excellent way to engage with readers, participate in the dialogue, and ultimately shape news coverage.

For example, the Globe has a Facebook page for its online subscribers, which gives readers access to exclusive stories and allows them to interact with the Globe’s journalists, as well as offer up news tips.

“A lot of our reporters get good tips and suggestions for stories and a lot of scoops through that Facebook page,” Rita says.

Business reporter Alexandra Posadzki agrees that social media and the data it provides helps augment her ability to source stories, develop contacts and ultimately tell a great story.

Metrics also tell a compelling story to advertisers

Many publishers now have strategies in place to optimally deliver their content to audiences where they spend most of their time. The Globe is no exception with exclusive subscriber-only content in business, investing and politics.

Doing so helps the Globe engage current captive readers who have a subscription, and hopefully attract new subscribers, which in turn will help tell a more compelling story to advertisers and ultimately impact sales and revenue.

“Reach our large, opt-in audience at work, at home and on mobile through our engaging, content rich emails that comfortably outperform industry open-rate benchmarks,” the Globe’s digital media kit for advertisers states.

Lessons for Others

By using social media metrics to help shape coverage and drive readership, the Globe has proven that traditional news organizations can survive if they continue to:

Tell good stories – People still crave story telling – no matter the platform on which they receive it and social media metrics are giving the news team great indicators of what’s hot, what’s not.

Engage in dialogue – It’s important to have multiple, creative social media platforms that allow for conversations with customers and the Globe continues to think outside the box in this respect (i.e. Instagram, Facebook).

Give readers the pen – The Globe is not afraid to allow its readers to comment (while many other news organizations have eliminated this practice), which gives them a picture of who their most passionate readers are and allows the Globe to tailor content accordingly.

Bring social media metrics to the table – The Globe’s social media team is now an active participant in the all-important daily news meetings, which allows for all members of the Globe’s ecosystem to engage in a dialogue about social media metrics and organizational performance.

One thing is clear, for the Globe and its increasingly successful digital news strategy, social media metrics are now the message.

Organization: The Globe and Mail
Industry: Media
Name of Organization Contact: Josh Hargreaves, Social Media Manager; Rita Trichur, Editor; Alexandra Posadzki, Reporter

Authored by: Tony Maraschiello

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