Polco partners with WNA to offer Wisconsin newspapers valuable readership data

Jun 1, 2020

MIDDLETON, Wisconsin — Since October, the online civic engagement platform Polco has partnered with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association to equip newspapers across the upper-midwestern state with valuable data and polling information on their readers.

CEO Nick Mastronardi and Director of State & Media Engagement Mike Jadin approached WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett last summer with a blueprint to aggregate polling results that could be used to help both the WNA and all of its members.

Jadin recalls, "I remember that Beth Bennett’s initial reaction was something along the lines of ‘there’s no reason not to do this.’"

Shortly after the meeting, members were asked to opt in so that Polco could begin creating each individual profile. Nearly 40 of them signed up within the first couple weeks.

Initially, some newspapers did not find it easy to integrate a new piece of technology into their current plan.

“Even though the platform is incredibly easy to use with content that can be published and embedded with a click of a button, we found that newspapers are so incredibly busy that a light day, for them, is one where they have time to be able to go over that one extra email,” Jadin noted.

Several weekly papers were the initial publishers of the WNA's Polco content, with the larger dailies not quite ready or able to integrate the platform into their sites. Once the coronavirus threat hit, it changed everything: “Everyone had questions about what's going on, wanting to know how this pandemic will affect us — from both a health and economic standpoint, and we offered the newspapers a way to ask its readers what they thought, and see the demographic breakdown of their responses while maintaining their privacy,” said CEO Nick Mastronardi. The larger Gannett and Lee papers eventually started posting questions, creating a diverse and unique collective of both newspapers and aggregated readers' opinions in a simple snapshot.

Currently, the Polco and WNA partnership is on its 9th question and yields anywhere from 600-1,000 respondents. The collective of 40 newspapers can choose which questions to publish, with anywhere from 7 to 12 newspapers participating at any given time.

Assessing the overall partnership, Nick Mastronardi offered the following statement: “State and local papers are experts at broadcast but also love to listen. Historically, to listen to resident sentiment and write stories on it, state and local papers were reliant on state and local polling organizations. Now they can facilitate the dialogue directly. Polco has now made their communication channels two–way streets. This has been good for the papers and good for the readers. When readers read an article, feel passionate or compelled by its contents, they can now provide their perspective on the topic in a citable and organized way directly accessible to their paper and their paper's coordinating bodies.”