Case Study: Journalism has impact. So do business models.

In November 2020, Lookout Santa Cruz was launched with a singular mission: to "make Santa Cruz County a better place for all who live here."  Six months later, the pure digital brand startup boasts more than 11,500 newsletter subscribers and a paid membership program that has thus far exceeded its initial growth projections.  

The business model deployed at Lookout is heavily-focused on reader revenue and memberships, and to support that strategy Lookout contracted with BlueLena to not only implement the technology, but to provide end-to-end managed services to drive registration, activation and ongoing engagement among Lookout Santa Cruz readers.

As with all BlueLena clients, this engagement includes a holistic, ninety-day onboarding series encompassing seventeen discrete emails - ranging from content features, local guides, investigative reporting, audience surveys, and yes - membership conversion campaigns. While the entire series is designed to achieve an outcome of a paid conversion, it is also an opportunity to develop a long-term brand relationship - something that is vital when launching a new media company.

Lookout members can choose to allocate 10% of their membership dues to a local Santa Cruz County non-profit (example shown is Coastal Watershed Council)

In addition to the automated new reader and new member onboarding series, Lookout has partnered with YellowBrim to automate production workflows, and enable the seamless curation of daily editorial newsletters from its content management system (Graphene), integrated with BlueLena's email marketing platform.

Earlier this year, Lookout and BlueLena have partnered with Social News Desk to execute a series of paid acquisition campaigns via Facebook that identifies and promotes high-engagement news stories to grow audience traffic.

And Lookout has been prolific in its user of Second Street's platform to leverage contest promotions to further grow audience through brand marketing and activation, proving the importance of employing multiple levers to build and grow readership.

The overall results-to-date are impressive:

  • 12% of registered users have converted to paid membership, outperforming the GNI Digital Subscription Playbook performance benchmarking by 2x.
  • 30% average interaction rate for daily email newsletters, which includes a morning update, daily COVID digest and breaking news alerts.
  • 81% of registered users have either opened and/or clicked a daily email newsletter over the past thirty days.
  • Meter paid stop conversion rate of 0.9% also outperforming the GNI benchmarking by 2x.
  • Churn rate of 0.9% that is 5x better than industry standards.

A large driver behind Lookout's early success is its unique approach to membership where readers can choose to donate 10% of their membership dues to one of several local non-profit organizations.  Over 90% of members have chosen to do so, allowing Lookout to already reinvest nearly $10,000 back into the community through its non-profit partners.

Over the next few months, Lookout has ambitious plans to expand its civic partner program, including group-based membership access to drive readership among local college student populations. The team will also be introducing more in-person events as the COVID-19 situation continues to improve, and venues return to normal operations. You can read more about the early success as well as its plans for the future at this link.

"BlueLena has been - and continues to be - instrumental to Lookout Local's success. From our pre-launch to launch to growth and optimization, the BlueLena team has played pivotal strategic and operational roles every step of the way. A smart, nuanced reader revenue strategy is core to building Lookout's sustainable local news and community model -- Blue Lena helped bring our vision for this to life." 

-Jed Williams, Chief Revenue Officer, Lookout Santa Cruz

To learn more about BlueLena's end-to-end audience management and recent success stories, contact us at solutions@bluelena.io.