Char­lotte Ob­server at­tract­ing mil­len­ni­als

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Special To News & Tech - Cat her­ine Payne, NAA Spe­cial to News & Tech

Editor’s note: This ar­ti­cle has been reprinted with per­mis­sion from the News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica.

Move over, 7. Five is the new magic num­ber — well, at least in Char­lotte, North Carolina. The Char­lotte Ob­server is find­ing suc­cess with its Char­lotte Five (http:// www.char­lot­tefive.com), a dig­i­tal prod­uct geared to­ward mil­len­ni­als. Char­lot­teFive pub­lishes the city's top five news and en­ter­tain­ment sto­ries on its mo­bile-op­ti­mized web­site at 7 a.m. each weekday. It also sends a hand­crafted email news­let­ter at that time.

“I see Char­lot­teFive as a mi­cro­cosm of the pa­per,” says Jen Rothacker, the Ob­server's in­no­va­tions editor who has helped launch and run Char­lot­teFive. “It has a mix of news and lifestyle sto­ries, but it is writ­ten in a voice that will ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als.”

Since its soft launch in Novem­ber, Char­lot­teFive has been build­ing an au­di­ence. It now brings in tens of thou­sands of unique visi­tors ev­ery month. I looked at how Char­lot­teFive is do­ing in, of course, five ways. 1. Sto­ries with style Char­lot­teFive aims to give the city’s mil­len­ni­als news that mat­ters to them. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing sto­ries about Char­lot­teans do­ing in­ter­est­ing things, it doles out bite-size pieces of news about lo­cal events.

Eco­nomic-de­vel­op­ment roundups are pop­u­lar, Rothacker says. Peo­ple are in­ter­ested in a store open­ing or a brew­ery fea­tur­ing a beer of the month, she adds.

While Char­lot­teFive sto­ries are easy and quick to di­gest, they are not bland. Char­lot­teFive might take an Ob­server story, boil it down and spice it up with tweets and voice. But the new ver­sion would keep a key in­gre­di­ent — a link to the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle.

Char­lot­teFive sto­ries have a voice that speaks to mil­len­ni­als, Rothacker says. Writ­ten in a zippy style, the sto­ries of­ten in­clude an aside, a joke or a per­sonal de­tail, she says. The per­sonal con­nec­tion is very im­por­tant to read­ers, she adds. 2. Email news­let­ter The email news­let­ter goes out at 7 a.m. Mon­day through Fri­day. It in­cludes a brief and bright editor’s note as well as links to C5 sto­ries.

A hand­crafted news­let­ter with a per­sonal touch makes a dif­fer­ence, Rothacker says. The open rate is 60 per­cent, which is great, she adds. “We get prob­a­bly a cou­ple dozen new sign-ups ev­ery day.” 3. So­cial media Char­lot­teFive has used so­cial media to con­nect with mil­len­ni­als. News about C5 has spread by word of mouth on Face­book and Twit­ter, and shout-outs have led to con­ver­sa­tions on the lat­ter.

Char­lot­teFive also high­lights so­cial media ac­counts to fol­low. For ex­am­ple, the latest in­stall­ment of #Fol­lowFri­day rec­om­mended the In­sta­gram ac­counts of a bak­ery, cheese maker and cock­tail en­thu­si­ast. (It scored brownie points with this as­pir­ing foodie!) 4. Advertising As the sole spon­sor, OrthoCarolina gets a na­tive ad as a sixth story a month. It also gets a logo on the site and in the news­let­ter.

“We have a lot of ad­ver­tis­ers that are very in­ter­ested in the site,” Rothacker says. “We'll see if we sign more on or if OrthoCarolina wants to stay the sole spon­sor.” 5. Next steps Char­lot­teFive aims to deepen au­di­ence en­gage­ment in var­i­ous ways. It is ex­plor­ing ideas for events and wider cov­er­age in the city. It is con­sid­er­ing spinoffs, such as a sec­tion on the site or a sep­a­rate news­let­ter. In ad­di­tion, it is look­ing at dif­fer­ent kinds of sto­ry­telling, such as a se­rial story that would run for, of course, five days. To learn more about Char­lot­teFive, email Rothacker at jrothacker@char­lot­teob­server.com. Cather­ine Payne cre­ates con­tent for the News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. She can be reached at Cather­ine.payne@naa.org.

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