Digital Transformation: Mapping Power Users and Their Needs

February 17, 2020
SCMP Insights

Power Users and why they are important
Power users are defined as those who visit a news website over multiple sessions per week and engage with its content with high frequency per session. For SCMP, our power users are English readers who are “globally curious”, and whose interest in China and Asia result in strong regular engagement with our content.

Power users are crucial to product development. While we prioritise both the depth and breadth of our reader base, power users are most important in driving the depth of our readership.  The amount of time spent by power users, their level of engagement and retention are all key to our success.

Unlike the past generations, our power users are tech-savvy and expect to consume news across a variety of platforms, and in different formats. They are also adopters of digital devices, constantly connected on their devices, consuming news and information by checking out social media, watching videos, and listening to podcasts and audio clips.

While our power users’ preferences have developed and changed over time, the core of our business is unchanged. SCMP continues to lead the global conversation about China, and to do that in today’s world, we have to have a digital-first offering – that’s the only way we can effectively reach multiple international markets.

Digital Transformation: How it affects power-user churn, products and business
As we embrace digital transformation here at SCMP, we have to change the way we engage with and build up our community of power users, too. At the start of our journey of digital transformation, we had to make the difficult choice of foregoing subscription revenue in order to scale globally. This meant shifting from print to digital and dropping our paywall, and losing the revenue from some of our most loyal power users. That was a tough decision we had to make because SCMP already has a saturated local market of English readers in Hong Kong, where the level of English literacy is actually dropping. We knew that, as a business, we needed to expand internationally to survive.

A strategic priority of our digital transformation included building a robust community of readers. Readers who feel more connected to SCMP within a community through our products will have stronger brand loyalty and lower churn than those that view us as simply an information source.

In fact, reader loyalty is a huge challenge for news organisations in the digital age. Trust in the media is lower today, and consumer attention spans are much shorter. When you have a digital reader, instead of a print reader who sits down to read the paper over their morning coffee, you’re not just competing with other news publishers, but also with anything they could do on their phone or the web. You will be racing with, for example, mobile games, social media feeds, the latest show on Netflix or a viral video on Youtube, just to name a few.

Even so, we believe the way forward is to stay true to our convictions that the world needs fair and independent journalism. We are a product technology company that trades in truth, and the best way to reduce churn is for us to make the best possible product - quality journalism - to the best of our ability, and distribute it across the best channels and formats.

Quality journalism is still the key to lower reader churn
As a result, from a product perspective, it’s still all about developing quality content relevant to the user in their preferred format and context. It is critical for our product line to stay ahead of digital trends and features, and to achieve that we need to go through lots of experimentation, and make crisp decisions.  We adopt new mediums early - if long-form video is replacing short-form video, we want to be the first news source to offer it to consumers. We also develop tailored products and services based on regional readership data to break into new markets.

Constant content-driven innovation over a range of mediums has become a focus for our product development strategy. This includes increased video production, the use of AI-powered technology, and enriched content offerings. As we become an increasingly global brand, we also extend these features to new markets and offer them in different editions that serve our customers best.

The combination of content and digital offerings has made SCMP a more attractive option for the type of reader who fits our power user criteria. As we continue to innovate our products and business through technology, we put ourselves in the right position to expand our community of power readers across different geographic and demographic groups, and nurture a deeper, longer relationship with them.