Charlotte Observer attracting millennials
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 email@example.com. Catherine Payne creates content for the Newspaper Association of America. She can be reached at Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org.