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Comments, raffles & hiking: how Blick.ch has acquired over 600k registered users

Blick is a Swiss German- and French-language daily newspaper with 1.3M users/day and an impressive  strategy that has led to over 600K logged users. 
I recently spoke to Adrian Gottwald, Head of reader revenue, and Bettina Widmer, Head of Vertical Hub, about their diverse (and very impressive) registration acquisition strategy, the tests and learnings so far and their plans for the future, including the planned launch of their first digital premium product.        

Sources of registration on Blick.ch

Having not yet moved into the digital subscription space, Blick have been maximizing on the value of their readers by converting them from anonymous to known. And, with an impressive 619K loyal users visiting each day, whose propensity to convert is very high, registration is a brilliant way to further increase loyalty, collect first-party and maximize on ad revenue through targeting.

Registration acquisition channels: 

registration acquisition channels

Thanks to this diverse range of potential entry points, Blick has acquired 660,000 logged members, and counting.

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The 6 registration acquisition channels in more detail:

1. Raffles: 33.1%

Blick has gained a unique reputation in Switzerland for organizing raffles, doing so in partnership with widely recognized sponsors to offer enticing prizes. To support the publisher's business model, participation requires registration and these users will also receive a dedicated raffle with the goal of increasing frequency of visits, encouraging future participation and sharing success stories from winners. 

Although the team were originally concerned that registered users acquired through this channel would simply enter a draw and never return, the result is in fact the inverse and raffle users have been found to be one of the most engaged audience segment, continuing to come back to Blick content. Given the importance of this user group to the publisher's sustainable growth, the team is now prioritizing this acquisition strategy.

registration acquisition channels at blick

Adrian's team's deep analysis of their registered audience has also proven that, despite a 50:50 gender split amongst overall Blick users, many engagement elements are clearly male-dominated, including commenting (75.9% male) and the (67.9% male). However, raffles are a lot more balanced between the genders, making them an essential strategy to engage and activate Blick's female users. As Adrian highlighted, there's therefore still a lot of potential in their raffle strategy and data shows that it's difficult to activate female readers through other formats. 

Experimenting with raffles: 

To increase registrations through this source, the team tested an on-site pop-up.

The hypothesis was that readers would be encouraged to enter thanks to a highly visible, closable wall on the article level:

registration via blick's raffles

The result, however, was that rates proved to be very low. Arguably, the transactional strategy with no immediate value exchange didn't prove convincing enough for readers to give away their data. What's more, the overlay could well have been perceived as by readers, reducing the perceived quality of the content. Or, quite simply, digital readers aren't the right target audience for this lottery strategy. It's perhaps more suites to print readers, who tend to be older.

2. Direct source: 15.9%

This refers to users creating an account directly via the login button in the header of the page. It may be surprising that this figure is so high, but Blick has an impressive 619k loyal readers who visit everyday meaning a large percentage of their audience have a high propensity to convert.

3. Comments & community: 14.5%

Comments play a key role in community building, helping to establish and incite conversations between users and . On Blick's website, commenting is reserved for registered members, and anyone wishing to add their opinion will need to create an account.

Worth noting: Laws regarding commenting in Switzerland are very tight – even if Blick isn't the author of a comment on their site, the publisher will take responsibility for it. For this reason, the company has 20+ team members dedicated to moderating comments!

4. Registration wall overlay: 9.9%

Blocking articles with a registration wall establishes a value exchange whereby users are asked to create a free account in order to read content, as well as benefit from the other features of registration. 

For Adrian, is key here. 

Testing the user journey: 

The team ran tests on small user groups to find the optimal journey for converting visitors into registered users without negatively affecting engagement:

  • No registration wall
  • Soft, closable registration wall
  • Hard registration wall (content can only be accessed by registering)
registration wall tests at Blick

Results:

Like many , there were originally concerns that the hard wall would turn users away. But results proved that, despite the slight increase in bounce rates and returns to the homepage, conversion rates increased to 3% compared to 0.2% with the soft wall. This test therefore provided a proof-of-concept, helping to convince the internal team of balancing the value of a harder strategy (high conversion rates) vs slight decreases in engagement metrics.

Testing wall copy:

The wording on the registration overlay also plays a valuable role in converting users, so the team tested 3 different copies to compare against the control group. 

Control group = “sign up and benefit” – very transactional and simple with a list of benefits of registering. 

Hypothesis = a user asks themselves here if it's really worth signing up, what value do they gain?

The 3 variations: 

  • Social proof: “Over 500,000 Blick readers already have an account with us and use the full potential of Blick.ch”
Social proof registration wall
  • Appreciation: “Thank you for visiting us”
appreciation registration wall
  • Congratulations (only shown to the loyal reader segment): “Congrats! You belong to the 10 percent of our most loyal users on Blick.ch” – personally, I loved this variation. I think it's a brilliant strategy to target your most engaged readers and make them feel valued, increasing their likelihood to support you in the future (i.e. partake in value exchanges such as subscription)
loyal registration wall

All 3 versions were successful in increasing conversion rates in comparison to the control group

registration wall test results

5. Search function: 7.9%

Interestingly, the search function is placed behind a registration wall, encouraging conversions and adding an additional feature to the list of benefits of creating an account.

blick search function for registration

6. Event verticals: 26Summits (5.2%) and Winter Awards (4%)

According to Bettina, there are 2 main hobbies shared by the wide majority of Swiss inhabitants – hiking and skiing. 

With this in mind, her team worked to develop 2 verticals around these highly emotional topics, aiming to acquire new visitors and registered members, increase monetization through sponsorships and be present where Swiss people are, connecting the offline and online worlds. 

Blick strategy

26 summits– Blick's hiking vertical

Launched in 2020 during the Covid pandemic, Blick's hiking campaign challenges individuals to hike 26 peaks in each of the 26 regions of Switzerland, scanning the QR code at the peak, gaining points and prizes (for every hike you win a prize, such as a voucher for partner stores or a hiking product). 

Blick hiking vertical for registration

26 summits has its own site with descriptions of each hike, the route, level of difficulty, etc.

26summits

Of course, in order to participate, you need to create a free account with Blick.

26 Summits is promoted through a variety of channels to encourage participation: 

  • Through Blick itself – articles about mountains and hiking that link out to the platform and registration 
  • Social media (Instagram, Tiktok, ect.) – both on Blick's and a 26 summits account
  • In a paper magazine as a supplement to the Blick Sunday newspaper (Sonntags Blick), to a partner newspaper in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (L'Illustrée) and available in stores owned by the publisher's main partner, a sports retailer
  • Flyers in hiking spots, and the QR codes themselves that hikers will see at each peak
  • Display and print ads

The results: 

  • 3.3 million page views on 26summits.ch
  • 1.8 million unique users
  • 25k registrations (just over 1% conversion rate. There's a bit more friction in this conversion process as you have to climb to register!)
  • 4.3 survey reviews showing great user feedback 

The next steps for Blick's hiking vertical: 

User feedback has been very positive, so much so that participants would like to connect with each other to hike together and discuss routes. This has led the publisher to recently launch the 4th edition of 26summits with its own Facebook group

Winter Awards – Blick's snowsports vertical

The Winter Awards celebrate the best ski resorts in Switzerland across 6 different categories and with an exclusive, B2B event held for the first time in 2023 to announce the winners and run expert talks. Out of the 171 ski resorts in the country, 76 participated last season, each running campaigns to encourage people to vote. 

As with the hiking campaign, users need to register to vote but will also be entered into a raffle to potentially win prizes from Blick sponsors. 

blick winter awards

The promotional strategy for Blick's Winter Awards is very clever – each ski resort is encouraged to activate their community, bringing them to Blick to vote with the incentive of potentially winning an award, gaining notoriety and 85,000 francs worth of advertising placement on Blick. On top of this, like for 26 Summits, the publisher has a variety of promotional channels:

  • Blick publish articles on snow sports to link back to the Winter Awards site
  • Media coverage 
  • Social media
  • Display ads 
  • Promotional material (stickers, posters and digital ads) is sent to participating ski resorts
blick winter awards

Results: 

  • 912k page views
  • 19k registrations (easier to get registered users than 26 Summits)

Going further with their reader revenue strategy

Registration has proved incredibly valuable to Blick as a strategy in and of itself, allowing for data collection and testing of engagement and conversion strategies to better understand their audience. And this is going to prove even more useful in the coming months and years as the publisher is working to launch their premium product. 
However, thanks to already having over 600k logged users, a significant percentage of their audience already have a high propensity to subscribe in the future. Data from other publishers has proved this – at L'Équipe in France, free registered members are 13 times more likely to subscribe, whilst has told us how their de-anonymized users are 45 times more likely to subscribe.