The Canadian news category is a mature one — growing at less than 1% a year for the past fifteen years. We also know that most news subscribers are not monogamous – they have a diverse diet of news brands they frequent. In a battle for market share, the Toronto Star could grow their pool of readers and the frequency with which they visit their site by becoming a destination for a few key unique topics that people couldn’t get anywhere else.
The challenge was that the Star’s online experience was built to serve the most recent content from a broad range of topics. This made it impossible to create a premium and immersive space dedicated to deep areas of coverage the Star excelled at - but potentially new readers didn’t know. With no dedicated destination to ‘point’ digital ads towards, marketing could only promote individual stories - which made it impossible to shape perceptions of the brand.
We helped the marketing team make the case for a shift in strategy, from the promotion of individual stories, to building equity around around a few key topics the Star could own. Using last click and path data we made the case that Atkinsonian topics like long-term care, race and policing, public education and the affordability crisis in housing should be prioritized. We also convinced senior stakeholders for the need for a new immersive digital destination where these topics could live and be promoted.
While utilizing heavily visual assets, the new assets fit within a rigorous sales funnel strategy and leveraged existing assets further down.
We called our new destination ‘The File’ and it would provide an immersive introduction into the best of the Star’s reporting on each of the topics chosen. For each topic we commissioned a mini documentary, which brought to life the human dramas, tensions and struggles behind the Star’s headlines. After viewing the mini-documentary, we would then nudge readers towards snippets and photo essays from the some of the best stories, then onwards to discovering more of the Star’s journalism, sign-up for newsletters or even subscribe.
The positioning for each 'File' talks to the relevance of each topic, even for people who may not think they are directly affected.
Production occurred in lockdown and at the height of the pandemic. With reporters and editors overworked, we decided to develop the storylines for mini documentaries ourselves. Working with our production partners, we scanned through hundreds of stories on each topic, fleshing out storylines and subjects that brought each one to life. At the same time we fleshed out the platform’s design, UX and UI, content and copy and developing an integrated launch marketing campaign.
Ontario’s strict COVID restrictions made film production a challenge, which called for flexibility in how we approached the coverage of the topics.
The immersive experience serves as an engaging entry point into the serious topics included in The File.
After gaining CEO and board approval, the File was launched in early March 2021 to rave reviews internally and externally. From concept to code we shepherded in a new chapter for the Star’s marketing team, moving it away from discounts and promotions and closer to promoting Star’s journalism than ever before.
Agency: Creative Business Company
Strategy, Account: Faisal Siddiqui
Creative Director: David Jalbert-Gagnier
Design: Turlough Fortune
Illustrations: William Luz
Director Matt Barnett
Editor: Peter John Schnobb
Production, Color: Mark Delottinville
© 2021, David Jalbert-Gagnier