What’s a guy going to do when your sons sell your newspaper and it begins to be less ‘progressive’. That was the dilemma faced by Carlo de Benedetti after the sale of Italian daily La Repubblica.
“I got this call, and he wanted to start a new liberal newspaper,” Stefano Feltri told last week’s Asian Media Leaders eSummit.
And that’s what they did, Domani – the name itself part of the fun – starting with design work in May 2020 ahead of a September launch. While the focus was digital-first and subscription-based, print was a key element in the mix. “We made some assumptions, and this time tried to do something different,” said Feltri, a former deputy editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano. “People were more used to the idea of a subscription-based newspaper, but the key was to start from digital first.”
A year after the initial call, Domani has a media ecosystem, teams for investigative writing, analysis, opinion and comment, while the 86-year-old publisher has pragmatically created a foundation to secure its future.
Feltri told how a Domani “community” was created three months before the newspaper’s ‘go-live’. “We built up relationships with prospective readers, inviting them to join us on the journey, and being invited on TV shows helped us grow subscriptions in advance.”
The team of 25 editors and reporters – “some of whom think print is all that counts” – work across all channels, and alongside one data journalist (an economist learning journalism), and three artists. There’s no “expensive” page designer – automated templates and a contractor are used instead – but instead a single workspace, based on all-embracing Atex technology. This covers management of the 650 freelancers – among them “famous writers and intellectuals” – as well as content management, the website, streaming, an e-paper app and paywall/subscriber system. Writer aids include Romeo, a digital rich editor with an integrated SEO helper, and tools to assist with longform story creation, research, and to see the most popular queries on Google.
“Stories are born digital,” says Feltri, “written directly into the editor to have one single version. It’s a lean way to manage.”
After six months, he’s “pretty optimistic”. Subscriptions reached the 2020 goal and are currently at 70 per cent of that for 2021. With uniques growing at 20 per cent a month, Domani is on target to break even in three years.
So is its political agenda, with political change “driven by our comment,” Feltri says.
Content innovations include DopoDomani – which means ‘day after’ – presenting ‘best-of’ round-ups as special editions, four of which have already been published, with two more ‘in print’ and an upcoming climate issue.
“We’re also doing more long-form articles – with more infographics, graphs and pictures – not that we expect people to read it all, but they will spend more time on the page.”
New newsletters include a premium product, and a daily newsletter with a preview of topics, an “intellectual partnership” of curation with AI and human help.
Meanwhile a 40-minute interview with a YouTube influencer saw Domani signing 400 subscriptions. “We’re just at the beginning of attracting a younger audience,” Feltri says. “The idea is to change the priorities.
“Papers are very focussed on politics, covered ‘old-style’ and younger readers are not interested in that. So we have dedicated Friday to events rather than political quarrels.”
Pictured: Stefano Feltri (right) with Carlo de Benedetti