Axios and local news looks like a winning combination, as Axios has been doing well and a slew of local news organizations have reported success with newsletters.
Here’s what Axios has achieved
with their topic-based newsletters. Impressive in a difficult market:
It turns out, newsletters monetize pretty well. According to The Wall Street Journal, Axios expects to get $58 million in revenue this year, a 30% increase compared to 2019. Newsletters supported by sponsors, including big companies like Comcast and Wells Fargo, account for more than a half of the revenue.
The number of newsletter subscribers almost doubled within the last year. Today, 1.4 million people receive Axios newsletters, with 4 million newsletters being sent out daily.
At the same time many local news organizations around the world are turning a corner financially, using newsletters to make their business models work.
The Reuters Institute just published a detailed research report
with success stories by Kaleva and Etelä-Suomen Sanomat (Finland), Ouest-France and Nice-Matin (France), Westfalenpost and Main-Post (Germany), and Yorkshire Post and Kent Messenger (UK).
The takeaway here? Publish less, but publish better.
This report finds that in shifting their emphasis to paid-content models, news organisations are redirecting their focus from producing a consistent stream of breaking, high-traffic news to more in-depth, localised approaches. Although these outlets continue to derive the majority of their revenues from their print products, they have embraced the need to enhance their digital revenues through diversified business models, including paid articles, subscriptions, and donation and membership programs, as well as newsletters, events, podcasts, videos, and other offerings.
Newsletters are a vital part for all of the local news organizations in the report:
Newsletters are another important way to reach readers for many of the news organisations. Westfalenpost produces a daily news-focused newsletter for all readers and newsletters from its local bureaus and is testing whether automatically produced or journalist-produced newsletters are more effective. Ouest-France offers newsletters for the larger towns it covers as well as newsletters on running, technology, religion, military, family, and other topics. Overall these newsletters draw 900,000 subscribers.
More evidence was provided by Poynter who reported
that The Boston Globe, The Star Tribune in Minneapolis and The Post and Courier of Charleston are all venturing out to other cities.
The strategy? Reaching a new audience with newsletters and possibly a digital subscription.
“We’ve had some notable successes there so far,” McGrory said. “Our daily Rhode Map newsletter by Dan McGowan has tens of thousands of readers and a high open rate.
The Star Tribune initiative is very similar […] While it does deliver a print paper in Duluth, The Star Tribune’s emphasis is on a newsletter and building paid digital subscriptions, Steve Yaeger, chief circulation and marketing officer, told me.
While there’s more and more evidence, this trend is certainly not new. For example we discussed
6AM who have a model similar to Axios: hyper local, built around newsletters and monetized with native ads and sponsoring. Another one is RND in Germany who use newsletters
to reach new audiences and monetize with a freemium model similarly to the examples in the Reuters report and Poynter article.
It looks like we have a blueprint that can work for local news, built around less but better content, for a loyal, engaged audience, and monetized through native ads or paid subscriptions. Does your area have a local newsletter already? If not, there might be an opportunity!