Mark Francescutti’s “Ready, Set, Grow” session at the 2018 APSE Summer Conference began with a poignant question, “What can editors do to spur subscriptions?” The query, though complex, resonated with many in the room but the road to that answer began with the definition of some key terms.

Francescutti, the sports vertical editor for the Dallas Morning News, explained a “conversion,” or an “event when a user successfully subscribes to digital off the lightbox.” This process is initiated the moment a user visits the website. After a certain amount of free articles the reader is hit with what is called a “paywall.” A pop-up box prompts them to pay a small fee to have unlimited access to the website. When that credit card information is submitted success has been achieved.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Before a user even makes their way to your site the content needs to attract them. Francescutti shared how breaking news and crime are some of the top topics that keeps people interested at the Dallas Morning News. This doesn’t necessarily mean an outlet shouldn’t cover other topics, but every piece of content should be vetted for its value.

So what else helps?

Twitter has been proven to be more effective than Facebook when it comes to directing traffic back to website for the Morning News sports department. Having reporters who have a dedicated Twitter following, and by using this platform to promote articles throughout the day, gives users access to be aware of what’s being covered. Headlines and search engine optimization, or SEO, are even more important. The headline is what catches the reader’s eye while SEO is integral to your work being found throughout the web.

When the work had passed the test of all those categories the final product should be concise and captivating. If there is too much writing it can be easy to lose the reader’s attention and permanently drive them away. “The byline doesn’t matter. It’s about the content,” Francescutti explained. Simply, the reader usually doesn’t care who wrote it as long as they’re getting the information they came for.

Gary Potosky, sports editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was up next to into depth about the power of newsletters. He explained how newsletters give readers the aforementioned “attraction” to the content. Once the outlet has proven to be reliable, your audience will develop a new level of loyalty.

As the session came to an end, questions were raised and suggestions have been given. But the final answer is that there is no perfect answer.

To watch the panel, click here.