Five on Friday: Consultations, Commitments and Customer Experience

Featuring the Los Angeles Times, Meredith Corp, Paramount+ and Hubspot

This week’s Five on Friday includes topics shaped by the events of the last year. The pandemic facilitates an acceleration in nonprofit media, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong shakes off rumors that he’ll sell the L.A. Times to Alden by reaffirming his commitment to the newspaper, and Meredith Corp launches a pro bono media and marketing consultation program to support BIPOC and LGBTQIA-majority-owned small businesses. Also, we’ve got details of the new and improved service Paramount+, formerly known as CBS All Access, and Hubspot shares five customer experience trends we can expect to see in 2021.

Pandemic Facilitates Growth for Nonprofit News

Though we don’t fully know the impact of COVID on the news industry, we do know that the pandemic has helped facilitate growth for nonprofit news. In a 2020 report by the Institute for Nonprofit News, called the INN Index, we know that there is volatility and uncertainty. At the same time, the public has looked to nonprofit newsrooms as a major source of information.

“The public turned to and has stayed with nonprofit news providers since COVID-19 hit the United States. Many reported traffic gains of fivefold or more in March and April over prior-year levels. By June, traffic was easing up, but many news sites reported they were retaining readership at elevated levels. Many have been hosting online community groups and video meetups, becoming vital community connectors as well as news reporters,” said Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Here are highlights from the 2020 INN Index:

Nonprofit news organizations have been broadening their revenue base with multiple sources of income, relying less on money from foundations and more on individual giving.

Image courtesy of Institute for Nonprofit News

During the measurement period, 41% of nonprofits have four or more revenue streams, making them less reliant on any once source of income. This increases opportunities for long-term sustainability.

Image courtesy of Institute for Nonprofit News

Individual giving is a growing source of revenue, but 71% of individual giving comes from major donors who give an average of $46,765 per year. Members, or subscribers, are the smallest category with an average donation of $67 per year. This may be the area with the largest opportunity for growth as communities continue to turn to nonprofit news as their primary sources for local news.

Image courtesy of Institute for Nonprofit News

Though these signs are encouraging, one concern for nonprofit news organizations is the lack of reserves. Many of these organizations are newly formed (e.g., Salt Lake Tribune, once a legacy newspaper, is now a nonprofit news organization), and their business models are still being defined. We expect to see more of these types of nonprofit organizations in the coming years. The Baltimore Sun may be the next. It looks like this newspaper will not be part of the Tribune Publishing-Alden deal. Instead, The Sun, and other Maryland community newspapers, will be purchased by the Sunlight for All Institute, a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong Reaffirms Commitment to LA Times

After news broke that Alden Global Capital was buying Tribune Publishing, rumors circulated online that Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong – who is the second largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing with 24% ownership – might sell the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Alden as well. Soon-Shiong purchased the newspapers from Tribune Publishing in June 2018 for $500 million.

Among those reporting that Dr. Soon-Shiong might put the newspapers up for sale was the Wall Street Journal. In February 19 and 20 tweets, Dr. Soon-Shiong said the information being reported was inaccurate, but a spokesperson for the Journal said they stands behind their reporting, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and spokespeople at California Times, the parent of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, put rumors to rest that the organization will sell to Alden Global Capital.
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and spokespeople at California Times, the parent of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, put rumors to rest that the organization will sell to Alden Global Capital. Courtesy via Twitter.

To reassure employees at the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune that the newspapers aren’t changing hands, Chris Argentieri, president and chief operating officer, sent an email to employees to say the future of the California Times, the parent company for the newspapers in question, are not for sale. Hillary Manning, a spokesperson for California Times, reached out to the Journal reporter who broke the story with this message.

“Dr. Soon-Shiong and his family continue to invest in and plan for the future of the Los Angeles Times, and do not plan to sell,” Manning said. “What you were told did not come from a credible source, as there are several inaccuracies. We respectfully ask that you not rely on any unnamed or off-the-record sources for this story. The information lacks a basis in fact.”

Meredith to Launch a Pro Bono Media and Marketing Consultation Program Designed to Support BIPOC and LGBTQIA-Majority Owned Small Businesses

Earlier this week, Meredith Corp. announced plans to launch Good Impressions, a pro bono media and marketing consultation program to support BIPOC and LGBTQIA-majority-owned small businesses. The purpose of the initiative is to drive awareness to these businesses, support their sales efforts and provide mentorship.

Qualifying businesses can apply for the program during the second quarter of 2021. Meredith will award five to 10 business of various sizes up to $100,000 each of access to Meredith’s marketing and advertising capabilities. Good Impressions will specifically target food and beauty companies, including consumer packaging for such products. Actual awards will be based on the winning businesses’ individual needs and goals.

“Good Impressions is a meaningful way for Meredith to help bridge the economic gap for minority-owned businesses and to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communities we serve,” said Catherine Levene, President, Meredith’s National Media Group and Executive Sponsor of :BLACKPRINT, the employee resource group representing Black voices at Meredith. “Driven by our core values that we can make a positive impact by supporting business owners, our program’s employee founders – Peachy-Jean Retizos, Senior Manager of Innovation, and Sharuq Alam, Senior Manager of Digital Finance, and supported by executive Ahu Terzi, VP of Corporate Beauty – developed this purposeful program. I’m proud of this collaborative effort and can’t wait to meet the talented recipients and help them achieve their dreams.”

For more information on this program, sign up on the Good Impressions website for updates.

Image courtesy of Meredith Corp

Paramount+, formerly CBS All Access, Launches March 4

On March 4, ViacomCBS’s streaming subscription service, currently known as CBS All Access, will be rebranded and include some changes. The rebranded service will be called Paramount+. At launch, the subscription service will have two tiers of pricing: an ad-supported tier at $5.99 a month and an ad-free tier at $9.99 a month. In June, Paramount+ will drop the ad-supported tier at $4.99 a month which will offer less content than the premium version.

Along with that pricing change, Paramount+ subscribers in the ad-supported tier will get access to live sports, CBSN and CBS News on demand, CBS content on demand, and thousands of TV shows. Those in the premium tier will get additional content.

When ViacomCBS announced the changes, they said they were rebranding to become a “super service” to capitalize on their deep content catalog which includes Paramount films, and more than 30,000 episodes of TV and 2,500 movies at launch plus shows from CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and the Smithsonian Channel. Paramount+ will debut 36 original series throughout the year, including reboots of Rugrats and Frasier.

“We are accelerating our plans for an expanded, building off our CBS All Access platform with major changes coming this summer as we track towards the re-brand and re-launch of a transformed product,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said. “We believe audiences want their entertainment on demand and their news, sports and events live. And through our expanded offering, we will be the service that gives them what they want, how they want it, all in one all in one place and at a great value. This will be a compelling foundational service for some consumers and a differentiated complement to what some other consumers already have.”

Paramount+, formerly CBS All Access, launches March 4, 2021.
Paramount+, formerly CBS All Access, launches March 4, 2021. Image courtesy of ViacomCBS.

Hubspot:  5 Customer Experience Trends

According to Hubspot, 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs. Also, $1.6 trillion is lost every year because of bad customer service! At the same time, a satisfied customer will spend 17% more with your brand. So how can your subscription company improve? Stay on top of customer experience trends to be sure your organization is implementing the latest tips and tricks to provide the best possible customer experience. Here are 5 customer experience trends to focus on:

  1. Create a premium app for your super fans. Aimed at a specific target audience, they offer a premier customer experience that includes the creation of a community, so like-minded subscribers can connect with each other.
  2. Adapt to change. We all agree that change is hard. This is particularly true for legacy companies, but it can be true for newbies as well. Follow the data of your subscribers’ journeys and adapt when you see something that isn’t working – and do more of what is!
  3. Step up your customer support game with interactive assistants. One challenge that many companies – including subscription companies – face is keeping up with customer support. Audiences have become used to instant support, but it isn’t always feasible to beef up your customer support team. That doesn’t mean you have to shortchange your customers though. Try using interactive assistants to answer frequently asked questions.
  4. Paid loyalty (or membership) programs grow revenue. Hubspot shared the example of Amazon Prime which has 126 million members in the U.S. who pay $119 per year, or who pay even more with a monthly membership, to get access to certain perks including free shipping, access to Prime Video, free online photo storage, streaming music and more. People PAY for this service, and they love it! Food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash have done something similar with their “frequent flyer” programs. For a monthly subscription fee of $9.99, diners can get their meals delivered for free from select restaurants. What can your company offer that your customers will love so much they’re willing to pay more for it?
  5. Make sure you’re mobile friendly. According to Hubspot, 52% of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices, but if your website or app isn’t fast enough, you will lose prospects and subscribers. Spend time and money to ensure a top mobile experience for your customers. [Editor’s note: I am guilty of this. If I visit a website and it takes too long to load, I got elsewhere.]

For more statistics and trends, read Clint Fontanella’s original article, “16 Customer Experience Trends and Stats That’ll Define Next Year” on Hubspot’s blog.

Image: Bigstock Photos