Audience Roundtable

Cultivate and Treat Your Audience as Shareholders


As I work with media companies and their communities, there is a term I like to use called “Economic Gardening.” In the community transformation and revitalization world, this simply means to work at nurturing and cultivating your current communitywide assets in lieu of buying new assets. In the media world, we can relate this to nurturing and cultivating your current readers or subscribers with an aggressive retention campaign versus shouldering a major acquisition expense to buy new subscribers. 

When viewing our audience, we tend to fall into a trap of viewing them through the limited lens of a revenue generating tool for our product. If we continue to only view them this way, we are doing a great disservice to our entire operation and will ultimately fail. We must begin to view our audience as more than a tool in which we experiment on various strategies to see how high we can increase our subscription rates. This sole focus will only continue to drive readers away as our prices continue to escalate and their pocketbooks continue to shrink.

So, how should we view our readers?

I say we should view our subscribers in two ways. The first would be as shareholders, where we are tasked in providing them maximum value on their subscription investment. This can be done by adding additional value to their current expectations. I have seen recently where companies such as American Express, Visa, Mastercard and many national retail corporations are beginning to get into the membership, loyalty, and rewards space. As we discussed in a recent column a few months back, this added value can come in many ways, but it must go beyond premium content and newsletters which will only get you so far. If your media company doesn’t have a loyalty or membership program for your valued subscribers, you are simply living on borrowed time with your runway growing shorter by the day.

While events aren’t in vogue due to COVID-19, they will return and you should be thinking of additional value you can provide subscribers through local events, local services, local businesses and so forth. Recently, I saw a great example of a loyalty program revolving around only local businesses in the community. It was a win-win-win as the local businesses had a new support network led by the newspaper, readers loved the shop-local support aspect provided by the local media company, and the media company benefitted financially as well. You can never go wrong with added-value propositions.

Number two is taken right out of the social media playbook. While this opportunity may not exist with our traditional print subscribers, readers that might be social media influencers should be courted as they have a crowd of followers. In some cases, the crowds created from influencers might be as large as the media companies’ readers, depending on the community. Not only are they large, but many of these local influencers also have great influence on their many followers.

The media company needs to cultivate their community of social influencers. They can become advocates for the media if they understand the media company. These influencers need to be incentivized to become a part of outreach or marketing plan for the media company. You will find that many of the local social influencers are well engrained in the community both politically as well as socially. You must find them. Once found, this will provide a great opportunity to invite them to serve on your editorial board or other community outreach groups you may have. Offer to cross promote their pages, websites, or Twitter accounts. Incentivize them in any way that makes sense for both of you. Establish these relationships as quickly as you can—it will pay great rewards.

In today’s media world, we can leave no stone unturned. The stones listed above are but two that will reap rewards for those willing to muster up the effort to pursue them. Ignore them at your own peril.

John Newby is the founder of the 360 Media Alliance. He also authors the weekly column, “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” which focuses on bringing local media and their communities closer together through common synergies and causes to grow revenue. He can be reached at


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here