Google News Initiative Case Study Learnings

In July of 2021, The Post and Courier began work on a project in conjunction with Google News Initiative (GNI). The purpose of the collaboration was to explore the efficacy of paid newsletters as a viable growth strategy for the news organization. Could the paper create alternative revenue streams and increase its digital audience effectively with this new type of subscription model? And what would that entail?

About The Post and Courier’s vision

John A. Carlos II / Special to The Post and Courier

It is worth noting that the Post and Courier has made a conscious effort to think forward. Where other traditional news organizations have shrunk, the newspaper has done quite the opposite. In 2021, The Post and Courier announced that it had grown its digital subscriber base to over 20,000. It’s also rapidly expanding, giving the paper a truly statewide reach with locations now in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Spartanburg, North Augusta and Hilton Head. The paper also recently doubled down on its commitment to print, building an all-new state-of-the-art printing press. The opportunity with GNI presented a chance to even further expand the brand.

As any marketer worth their salt knows, our engagement with media is constantly evolving. Wherever you look you can see the effects — whether that’s in Tik Tok being the most visited website of 2022, the advent of the Metaverse, or our consumption of movies and the surprising decline of Netflix subscriptions. To keep up with the times is imperative to be flexible and willing to experiment.

GNI Learnings

A example subscription ad for the newsletter The Tiger Take.

So in the summer of last year, The Post and Courier launched two newsletters built around collegiate athletics — The Tiger Take and Gamecocks Now. Both newsletters are subscription-based, meaning they require subscribers to pay. Gamecocks Now is written by a 20-year veteran of the beat— David Cloninger and The Tiger Take is written by Clemson newcomer, but veteran sports journalist— Jon Blau.

After seeing the success of the two sports newsletters, the paper launched the food newsletter, CHS Menu, (Charleston’s Menu) in late February of 2022. In partnership with GNI, The Post and Courier revealed a few of their findings. The main learnings were as such:


Lead growth is essential to subscriber growth. Before launching the sports newsletters there was a small number of leads. The Post and Courier had explored a free sports newsletter and used this niche audience to help grow its subscriber base. However, by placing more of an emphasis on growing the top of funnel, in 8 months the team was able to grow previous leads by 268%. These leads led to both subscriptions for the paper as well as subscriptions to the two paid newsletters.


Make ARPU a key metric. At the initial launch of the Gamecocks Now and The Tiger Take existing PC subscribers were offered a highly discounted price point as a bundle offer. While this drove subscription numbers, it ended up drastically tanking ARPU. It also, due to the nature of the sale, led to a high percentage of churn. By increasing the price of the newsletter bundle and killing the previous offer the sports newsletters were able to increase ARPU by over 8%, while also combatting churn and increasing revenue.

Estimating Audience Size

The most important learning from the partnership with GNI was helping approximate potential audience size. GNI had previously provided the target of subscription numbers to be 1.5% of the monthly audience on the paper’s website. By using these numbers the sports newsletters are already 63% to goal in only 8 months! Using this data also helped assess a proper estimate for subscribers to the food newsletter as well as the paper itself.

Open Rates

Make open rates key! Before the Apple IOS update, the sports newsletters maintained well over 40% open rates. Especially for paid newsletters, this metric is crucial to success.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the case study: here

Facebook, Meta, and the Future of Social Media

Woah. Facebook just went Meta. 

If you’ve paid attention to the news recently, you may have heard about Facebook’s rebranding. Let us clarify this right off the bat, the parent company that oversees Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus has rebranded itself as “Meta”, not Facebook the website/app itself. Do not worry, you will not be posting any updates on Meta.

This rebrand came after Facebook received increasing pressure particularly from whistleblower and former Facebook data scientist, Frances Haugan, who filed complaints that the social media platform’s empire knowingly amplifies hates, misinformation, and political unrest. 

Then, Facebook and WhatsApp’s infamous day-long shutdown increased speculation that the company was scrubbing unscrupulous records. Facebook, of course, denies this. 

So, what the heck is going on and what does that mean for those of us in marketing and advertising?

Facebook’s Algorithm.

In a previous blog, I wrote in-depth on Instagram’s algorithm. If you wish, you can read it here. Suffice to say, it’s no secret that social media platforms do everything they can to keep consumers on their apps and websites. It’s likely you have seen the research, or perhaps even the documentary The Social Dilemma, that gives details on how these companies operate. Social media gets consumers hooked, keeps them engaged for long periods of time, gets them to come back frequently, and make the company increasing amounts of money. Your time is up for sale and a slot machine of entertainment is at your fingertips. Unfortunately, as much as we know about media, the efficacy of such practices and their effect has only recently begun to be explored. 

This is where Frances Haugen’s testimony comes in. Appearing before the US Senate Congress Committee on October 5, 2021, she uncovered a number of issues with Facebook’s dealings, having previously leaked files of the companies findings. You can read her article on the subject in a Wall Street Journal article, or, if video is more your speed (looking at you Gen Z), you can watch her 60 Minutes interview. The summary is this – that there are two competing factors at work: what’s good for Facebook and what’s good for their consumers. Haugan found the data showed that Facebook often amplifies hate, enables misinformation, creates division, and aids in political unrest. Studies also found that Instagram is harmful to teenage girls. This is because, generally speaking, negative and divisive content performs better than the opposite. And because this is the case, the algorithm works to enable such content. Rather than protecting its consumers, Facebook promotes the thing that will get the most clicks.

At The Post and Courier, we’ve found this troubling statistic to be true. When boosting stories from the paper, we noticed a trend: crime pieces perform better than anything else. In fact, each week our best performing stories are almost universally about crime or policing. It creates an ethical dilemma for a company. Do what’s best for the consumer or do what’s best for the bottom line? And where do you draw the line? Can we create a more gracious, optimistic, and equitable society, or do we work to sow division by promoting what audiences want to click on? Questions worth pondering for any advertiser. 

On the Metaverse

One last thing of note. Facebook also introduced something called the “Metaverse”. You can watch the entire 75 minute video on their website if you like, but believe me when I say it’s straight out of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or for the modern reader something out of a film like Wall-E. Facebook’s parent company, now named Meta, is beginning to focus on the future of the internet in Virtually Reality (VR) format. Instead of going into the office or talking through a 2D screen on Zoom, they are working towards a future where people will hold meetings in a 3D VR world. Meta announced the advent of this Metaverse, an augmented reality experience where you can also meet friends, play games, watch movies, and generally spend time in this virtual world. 

Mark Zuckerberg’s postings got immediately panned with comments like “this is an episode of Black Mirror I swear.” But, interestingly, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, got much more favorable comments on his less aggressive video post. Regardless, it seems as though the future is here, however long it takes to actually become fully realized. We certainly don’t know the implications of this new interweb, but it’s best to start preparing now.

Get ready, it’s a scary world out there.


Instagram Algorithm Changes And How It Impacts Business

On June 30th the Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced publicly that Instagram was “No longer just a square photo-sharing app.” The news made waves around the internet, but should be no surprise to anyone who has paid close attention to the social media’s progression. With the seemingly new trajectory we felt it’d be advantageous to look at how the app has changed and where it’s going.

2010: Instagram’s Beginnings

Over a decade ago Instagram launched with it’s inaugural photo of it’s cofounder’s dog. 10 years ago Instagram was a chronological square-photo app, posting was simple, and the user base rather niche. Remember photo borders? Yeah things have changed a lot since then.

Within a few years Instagram exploded and became the social media heavyweight we all know today. As the years advanced the app changed as well. In 2016 for instance, rather than having posts appear chronologically, users began to see them ranked by importance. This was the introduction of Instagram’s algorithm.

The algorithm, still in use today and helps users and advertisers make use of targeted interest data. In a recent video Mosseri talked thoroughly about how exactly this works. Most importantly he noted that it functions differently across different sections of app (Posts, Stories, Explore, and Reels). A simplified summation is that Posts and Stories show videos and photos from people you follow, while Explore and Reels send these from you accounts you don’t follow, but that match your interests. IE if someone who has similar interests as you engages content, they can predict you likely will as well. So why more video?

2021 and Beyond

Data drives everything nowadays. Today Instagram ranks fourth* in Social Media apps behind Facebook, Youtube, and Whatsapp. As of April 2021 its monthly worldwide users was well over one billion. However the landscape is greatly changing. 

Look at for example at the usage of apps by US teens. From 2016-2019 Instagram slowly grew within the demographic. However, in 2020 something happened that dropped the percentage of by 10%: TikTok. 

With the rapid rise of TikTok, Instagram in 2019 introduced “Reels” a vertical discovery style video addition to the app in order to compete. Again, Reels shows the viewer content they aren’t necessarily subscribed to and digs deeply into its algorithm to send you content it thinks you might like. Youtube released their version a “Shorts” in March of this year.

So how do these changes affect your business’s marketing plan? 

For one, video advertising is becoming increasingly viable on Instagram. Businesses can show ads in all sections of Instagram so it’s worth considering how to advertise in each. As the app changes it’s important to adjust your marketing plan accordingly. For Posts and Explore you’ll want to produce horizontal content while for Reels and Stories you’ll need to create vertical videos. Our previous content on stories is helpful for understanding what exactly to post as well.

End Card

One new update is “Instagram end card”. After being showed an ad in “Stories” advertisers now have the opportunity to include second story which allows viewers to see your recent organic posts. It’s worth checking this box EVERY time as it give the consumer another opportunity to see your product and view your business. 


Beyond all these things though the changes in the app should change the way you use it broadly speaking. Even though the Tik Tok/Reels target audience is much younger and perhaps less likely to buy your product, these audiences are the future. Beginning to think through how you can advertise to them will only help you improve you ROI in the long run. Try your hand creating a Reel, do some research scrolling through the section. Remember too that organic is always free, it doesn’t hurt to learn! And lastly as always, if you need help getting any of this set up you can always reach out to our marketing team at King + Columbus. They’re an excellent resource for getting any of your marketing plans off the ground.

Notes: *We’ve grouped Facebook and Messenger together as they are technically the same provider.


Why You Should Implement Video Into Your Marketing Strategy

Let’s be honest, it’s not the year 2005 anymore. Fifteen years ago if you were looking for video marketing implementation, you’d likely find it in TV advertising or on a web browser. Today, however, video is available everywhere: on our phones, laptops, TVs, tablets, and even on our fridges! If you’re not using video as a part of your marketing strategy you’re missing out. Below are a few ways to begin implementing video right away:


In the ever-changing and tumultuous environment created by social media and COVID-19, video marketing presents a clear outlet to establish and maintain relevance for your brand while respecting safety guidelines. Regardless of whether you’re on a B2B or B2C platform, video marketing is generally agreed to have a great ROI. Video allows you to be much more personal than other mediums. Presenting your product or service over video allows you to build brand awareness, build loyalty and is an excellent avenue for presenting value proposition. Think: why is YOUR brand better than your competitors? Videos are an excellent opportunity for your company to shine through, for you to distinguish yourself, and to separate yourself from the pack. 

One of the simplest ways to promote your company is to include clips of employees or satisfied customers talking about your business. Remember with branding to tell a story and to aim for the heart. If people can put a face to the company then they will much more easily connect with what you’re doing.


When it comes to paid advertising, video is an easy way to present your product or service. In particular, tailoring your video to platforms like YouTube which has over 2 billion active users a month, gets your company before a huge audience quickly. Most social media platforms include paid opportunities to promote a business via videos. These include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vimeo, Reddit, and TikTok. Before choosing a platform to promote on, make sure you’re familiar with what will be best suited for your needs. Our guide on picking between Facebook and Instagram is a helpful resource

More traditional television advertising is also a great way to promote yourself too, but you certainly need to take cost-efficiency into account before going that route. Social media can be a simpler and much cheaper alternative.


For events, videos are an excellent option as well. Before an event include clips from a previous event, you can also show location and venue. These will preview the audience to what they will experience when they attend. It can help with other things too. One of the most useful benefits of video is it can help your website with SEO. If you’re having trouble getting your event to show up on search engines, embedding a video could be just the trick to get you at the top of the page.

When the event is over make sure to follow up. Give a recap of what happened; interview attendees. Make sure to maximize the event to its full potential. Make sure you’re collecting new leads, creating a newsletter, and offering sponsorships. An after-the-event video can be a great opportunity to generate future leads for those who were unable to attend. 

Product Demos

Product demos can be one of the most effective ways to market yourself. HubSpot recently noted that 73 percent of all US adults are more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.

These videos can be simple and silly! Some great ideas include filming a live video showing off the latest inventory, or filming someone on your phone and posting to your feeds. Obviously, product demos can be highly produced affairs, but they don’t have to be! Get creative with your presentation.

Lastly: Go for it!

We know making the step into video marketing can be a scary thing. Many people don’t ever do it for fear of producing something of poor quality, or for fear of failure. If you need help getting your plan off the ground the team at King + Columbus would love to help. K+C has some of the top professionals in the industry and is well equipped to help your business grow wherever in the process you might be. No need to wait, go ahead and start implementing video today!