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German publisher diversifies revenue with audience engagement

Engaging distinct audiences can open up new revenue streams for publishers. See how ZEIT media group did so by offering expert-led summits to users.

The challenge

The news industry’s digital revolution poses many challenges, from needing to diversify revenue streams to finding new, innovative ways to build community. As a result, competition is growing fiercely among publishers to show value and offer something unique to their readers.

Renowned for its quality journalism and award-winning weekly newspaper, ZEIT media group is one of Germany’s leading publishers well known for its balanced storytelling.

“Different perspectives are important to ensure quality and diversity,” explains Dennis Draber, ZEIT media group’s Senior Manager for Business Development, who helped coordinate between Google News Initiative and ZEIT media group. “Having a broad range of voices ensures not to get caught in ideological bubbles.”

The publisher pays attention to what makes its readers tick, harnessing market research to uncover interests and behaviours. For example, the team discovered that its audience is most interested in literature and travel, and consequently built 200,000-member communities dedicated to these topics.

The specialist interests of its readers appeared to be fertile ground for ZEIT media group, combined with its own reputation for expert deep dives. The publisher spotted an opportunity to add value to the existing offering and create a new revenue stream — by launching live, expert-led summits on topics like education, research, work, democracy, climate, entrepreneurship. During the pandemic, ZEIT media group successfully moved the summits online.

Key to the commercial success of these summits is attracting an engaged, high-quality specialist audience. Google News Initiative supported the team in improving audience segmentation and creating newsletter communities for summit attendees.

The publisher identified potential summit guests through social media, advertising, partnerships, and communications from its database, and gathered insights for content strategy through market research, trend scouting, and the specialist knowledge of its editors. The content produced from these summits was then bundled into a dedicated sponsored content hub and made available to a broader audience through newsletter communication and subscription.

Antje Fitzner
Our summits bring together people from different industries and positions. We want people to have a new perspective afterwards. The summits are a perfect fit for our brand — it’s both a learning experience and a deep dive.
Antje Fitzner
Director of Client Solutions, ZEIT media group
  • 45,900 guests attended the “ZEIT für X” virtual summits
  • 199,000 views of “ZEIT für X” summit content
  • 1,331 expert speakers have taken part in “ZEIT für X” summits since 2020

The results

Since 2020, 1,331 speakers have participated in 618 sessions at “ZEIT für X” summits, attracting 45,900 unique viewers and 199,000 views, and allowing ZEIT media group to secure alternative revenue streams with event sponsorship from brands.

ZEIT media group also successfully extended the life of its summits to further segment audiences for marketing purposes. Since June 2022, 99% of attendees have converted to joining the newsletter community after the event. “Our summits are a great tool to bring highly specialised knowledge to our communities and to deepen the knowledge of our readers”, says Antje Fitzner, Director of Client Solutions at ZEIT media group.

ZEIT media group has built several engaged communities from the summits, including ZEIT für Bildung (Time for Education), ZEIT für Forschung (Time for Research), ZEIT für Klima (Time for Climate), ZEIT für Demokratie (Time for Democracy), ZEIT für Unternehmer (Time for Entrepreneurs), and ZEIT für Arbeit (Time for Work).

“The learning here is that it is worth investing in high-quality niches,” says Fitzner, “as long as you have the brand fit for this.” Fitzner says ZEIT media group intends to build on this success by planning future events (live, digital, and hybrid) for specific target groups, offering even more interaction and more exclusive networking elements.

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