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How Grupo RBS is using print to fuel its digital growth

Learn how a digital first approach transformed Grupo RBS’ print portfolio
REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

By Chaymae Samir |  Sep 18, 2019

RBS, which dominates the south of Brazil with a reach of about 11 million people each month (99 percent of the population in that part of the country), is undergoing a massive shift to digital, fueled by its print assets. In part three of our four part series, we speak to Andiara Petterle, senior vice president of product and operations at RBS about this shift. Let’s have a look at how the group is keeping print at a positive margin while developing its digital business. 

If you haven’t read part one or part two, we recommend that you read those before continuing.

For RBS, print is still a good business “It helps us to buy the time needed for digital. Print advertising is declining but our premium pricing is the key to sustainability, with a 25% EBITDA margin in 2018’’ confirms Petterle, “we’re putting a lot of effort in growing the digital business but also monetizing the print paper. It’s still good business and still generating results. We’ll still have it as long as the customer wants it.’’

Photographer credit - Loream Ipsum
The print version of Zero Hora for example is helping to acquire more market share in the digital space and the combination of the two is not only important for customer acquisition but also for the relevance of the brand. 
Photographer credit - Loream Ipsum

When asked how RBS has been sustaining the print version at a positive margin, Petterle attributes this to the changes the organization had to make to its sales and operational structure. 

First, RBS combined the weekend edition of Zero Hora in one publication. This reduced the daily paper from seven to six publications per week. The weekend edition was positioned as a magazine like product which in turn helped increase retention. 

Second, RBS redesigned the organizational and delivery structure, which in turn saved money. All the newsrooms attached to different brands and products were separate once, but are now all under one roof and merged into one. This reduced costs and increased efficiency. They also got rid of the home delivery service that was costly. 

Finally, they increased their pricing which increased their profitability on print. RBS increased their prices on print by almost 25% but contrary to expectations, their retention rate actually increased: ‘’In one hand, we’ve invested in product, in research, in journalism, we’ve created this investigative group and all of this was invested in good journalism. And then on the other hand, we’ve put a price on the product. We’ve been increasing it in the last four years. This perfect combination is what made us successful in increasing the profitability of print’’ says Petterle. 

For RBS, positioning print as a premium product in the state in which they operate, and not having much competition in that pricing category, has helped the group not only invest the resources in digital money but also buying the time to understand where opportunities lie. 

Read further: From print to digital, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun is in the midst of digital transformation

In the final part of this series, we’ll explore how Grupo RBS has successfully pivoted from a traditional media group to slowly becoming an e-commerce startup. 

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