The SNO Report: Growing your online audience

For any publication, whether your online arm is your exclusive means for publication or is in addition to a long-established print product — or for anyone transitioning from one to the other — this is the big question: How do we bring our readers online and grow that base?

Well, if you’re online, simply being there opens your publication up to a much wider audience (all the Googlers and Yahoo-glers of the world), instead of only having the people in the building who have the paper handed to them.

But if that was the only answer, this SNO Report would be awfully short and pointless.

So, you’re trying to get those print readers online, and keep them there? Here are a few ideas:


  • Self-advertise in your print edition. Run big, noticeable house ads to tell your readers about your website or, maybe, your mobile app as well. This could also be a place to tell them X date when you’re moving to online-only

  • Tease online exclusives. One way to get print readers onto your site is to offer additional content there, especially interactive content (polls, quizzes) that they’d have a lot of interest in. And when you have to cut a story to fit in print, tease that the full version is running online

  • Spread the word around campus. Talk to your friends. Tell them about the website. Show them how it looks on their phones, since they’re already on it as you’re trying to tell them about it.

  • Share on social media. We think everyone has a Twitter and Facebook account — that includes your staff members and all your readers. So, staff members should be sharing stories on social media, tagging their friends, interacting. By the way, your publication should also have a Twitter and Facebook to do this.

On that last bullet point, yeah, social media is a big part of bringing readers in. But there are only so many ways we can tell you that, and we have a whole SNO Distinguished Sites program badge that outlines more guidelines.

Here’s what some anonymous students and advisers said about their use of social media when they were applying for that badge:

“The more (we) post, the more viewers the site will get, and if the story is something people actually care about, more people will view that story — so look for stories that cover a lot of people’s interests.”

“If we make great content, viewers will stay. If students share their stories, and those who see that share their stories and so forth, then we will garner a larger audience.”

“Since we started posting everyday on social media, especially Twitter, our readership has gone up tremendously and our site has gained more recognition on campus.”

“The staff used to post primarily during homeroom, but have now added other posts throughout the day, especially at the end of school. These are the times students seem to be checking social media most often.”

“Since the majority of our viewers prefer comedy, the students felt most of our movie reviews should be about comedy to increase readership.”