Verlagsgruppe Passau (VGP) is one of Europe’s largest publishers of regional daily newspapers with investments in Germany and Poland. Every week, VGP reaches more than 9 million readers with a print run totalling 4.9 million.
Passauer Neue Presse with its local editions for the picturesque town of Passau, where the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers converge, reaches more than 500,000 readers in southeast Bavaria every day and is thus the largest regional daily newspaper in Bavaria outside the conurbations.
Like most print publishers, the rise of the Internet meant that VGP needed a digital strategy that embraced online, instant content (often for free), as well as mobile and social platforms to reach younger Millennial and Gen Z readers. Likewise, they also needed to lure back local shops and businesses who were pulling advertising spend away from print to digital ads.
“Regional brands are very much part of people’s lives in Europe,” says Kim Kriegers, the Founder at viaany AG, VGP’s agency partner. “If you live in or are a tourist visiting Passau, you’d go to its local news site to see a real person’s view of what’s going on in the area.”
Using Stackla, VGP created Germany’s first app and microsite powered by curated user-generated photos and videos to deliver regional news and updates on businesses, attractions, events, offers and bargains.
Attracting Millennials with the Stackla-Powered LocalHub Map
In their LocalHub.de microsite and app on Android and iOs, Passauer showcases the region’s sights, restaurants, bars, culture and lesser-known attractions.
Instead of going out and producing their own content for each hotspot, they tapped into the user-generated content (UGC) that already existed on social media, both from local business’ official social channels and from local people and visitors.
“We wanted to create an online Yellow Pages for local businesses. By adding authentic customer photos from social media, we’ve provided powerful social proof for their business. It has become an incredibly valuable marketing platform for Passauer’s local businesses.” – Kim Kriegers, Founder at Viaany AG.
At the heart of the microsite and app is real visual content powered by Stackla. A maps widget allows users to see their location within an area and find local pubs, restaurants, retail shops and other attractions near them.
Kim explains that showcasing sights, lifestyles, local businesses and experiences over a map visualisation of social content helps drive home the theme of authenticity while keeping the experience highly personalised.
“Stackla is the only way that we can keep up with the non-stop demand for fresh, relevant local content.” – Kim Kriegers, Founder at Viaany AG.
Making Content Actionable with Call-to-Actions to Places and Articles of Interest
For a deeper-dive into the destination, a visitor can click to expand a tile to see key information. The expanded tile has a call-to-action button that links to a landing page with further information about the specific hotspot, such as address, phone number, website, tags and description. Each landing page features a visual gallery, automatically pulling social updates from the official attraction and UGC specific to the venue.
“Using Stackla, we could easily aggregate and organise all of the social photos and videos from local businesses at scale. It completely streamlined the process of creating a UGC-powered app and microsite.”
Users can also use the search function to look for hotspots alphabetically or based on search terms such as “markets” or “breakfast places in Passau”. The search results are displayed in a dynamic, visual gallery that’s beautiful and engaging. Additionally, it allows editors to promote certain attractions, such as “live pay tv soccer” during major soccer tournaments or Top 10 lists.
Building for Scalability and Enriching Experiences
The key challenge for VGP was scalability in terms of content. To start, it took a lot of time to manually build a full list of 1,500 local attractions and businesses and then find content around each.
To maintain authenticity at scale, VGP recruited 5-6 university students as local “scouts” or influencers and provided them with an individual Instagram account around an interest group: food, activity, sports and so forth. The influencers would go around to collect and publish content daily to Instagram to build local buzz. The influencer accounts are whitelisted in the Stackla platform so content published on Instagram is automatically rights managed and published to web widgets based on the relevant tags or interest group, with its own tile styling and display theme.
“For the 1,500 local attractions that LocalHub.de focuses on, there can be a few hundred photos around each. If we didn’t have Stackla, we would have needed a much bigger team to curate that content, organise it and style it.”
Another challenge was bringing in official content from the trusted news publisher into the microsite. Online content from the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper and sports portal is automatically integrated via RSS feed.
The team was able to implement many features and customise widgets through Stackla’s API and full-featured developer platform. To improve the map experience, VGP added geodata to all sources with a fixed physical address via webhooks. The app also features topic-specific push notifications and custom offers and promotions which are managed by the editors.
Using Stackla’s Zapier plugin, they were easily able to connect Stackla with other applications and platforms to automate and improve workflows. For example, the editors can publish aggregated content direct to their own Facebook pages.
VGP has also introduced an email newsletter featuring dynamic UGC from Stackla that gets pushed directly to their email platform MailChimp via Zapier. This allows them to further promote interest groups, promos and offers of local businesses.
Engaging Audiences and Activating Sponsors with Competitions
To engage even more on the microsite, they run several social competitions throughout the year. For example, using Stackla, they collect entries across Instagram and Facebook tagged #ladenliebe and allow users to vote on their favourite local shop.
In September and May, the local Dult fair launched with a competition “dultselfie” in which entrants will not only see their photo on the website but also see their selfie on event screens in big brewery tents. This was to promote their sponsorship with the local Hacklberg brewery.
The LocalHub campaign began with a soft launch in October 2017 and the results have been impressive.
On the acquisition front, the app has been downloaded 1,000 times on Android. The LocalHub Facebook page has engaged more than 1,500 fans organically. “The population of Passau is only 50,000 so this is a fantastic result for a soft launch with no marketing push behind it.” The microsite was also an initial success.
“We’ve seen clear SEO benefits, largely the result of the ability to aggregate a constant flow of fresh, high-quality content at scale using Stackla. We have over 10,000 monthly active users. Repeat visitors come back 2-3 times per day to see the latest news and content.”
Using the soft launch as a learning phase, the Passauer team have plans to add four more regions in Germany to the LocalHub campaigns this year. They also want to start using Stackla live event screens to drive awareness and engagement from upcoming events by showcasing exciting social content from past events, including Oktoberfest.
“Stackla continuously innovates its platform, and that’s the kind of partner that we want for all of our clients to use. It’s foundational for any future campaign with a visual content focus.”