The Assembly

The Assembly is a digital magazine launched in early 2021. It exists to publish fascinating, nuanced stories about the people, institutions and ideas that shape North Carolina. 

The magazine’s unique network of freelance reporters, photographers, designers, fact-checkers and copy editors is led by founder Kyle Villemain. The magazine releases new stories each week, serving a mix of longform deep dives and shorter-form “ideas writing” crafted to challenge and surprise readers.

Our team is no stranger to the startup scene — or its many surprise obstacles and complex challenges. 

Our mission: deploy digital ads to increase reach and convert paid subscribers.

The Reader

Longform Carolina-focused journalism isn’t every reader’s cup of tea. 

To put it another way: Many people digest tweetable sound bites. Our readers want to read 3,000 words in a single sitting. 

One of the first steps we took during the onboarding process was crafting a series of “personas” to better define which users we should be targeting online. Our content strategy team developed four distinct audience profiles to inform future paid media decisions. 

Among likely readers of The Assembly are North Carolina’s power elite, journalism junkies and Tar Heel State natives looking for deep dive coverage of people, institutions and ideas taking shape within their state.

Our Strategy

Intensive research built an important foundation for our digital strategy, but the part that came next was trickier. If there is a playbook for converting paid subscribers in the niche digital magazine space, instructions are not specific — nor do they guarantee success.

Step 1: Throw ideas to the wall. 

The BCom design team worked from The Assembly’s logo and brand guide to create a series of striking social media ads that embodied the brand’s clean aesthetic and bold voice. 

We also put together a rotating series of story-specific ads, swapping the copy and creative on a regular basis as new content was published.

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Step 2: Find out what sticks.

After a few months of continual testing, audience retargeting, copy refreshing and analyzing data, a clear (and unsurprising) theme emerged: In the niche longform media industry, content converts best.

Users were most likely to subscribe when targeted with a compelling story tucked behind the magazine’s paywall. In other words, The Assembly’s journalism speaks for itself. We just needed to get eyes on it.

Never was this more clear than on May 30, 2021, the day The Assembly broke a major story in North Carolina higher ed, which became a talking point for nearly every national news outlet in the United States. In a single day, the website hosted more than 30,000 visitors. 

We worked to harness this attention and earn paid subscribers by reminding readers that this impressive story was just the tip of The Assembly’s journalistic iceberg. 

Step 3: Play the organic long game.

In the digital media world, follower counts on social platforms are sometimes dismissed as “vanity metrics,” but growing a community of loyal followers is critical for success — especially in the digital journalism space. 

Converting paid subscribers is The Assembly’s bottom line. While traffic and conversion ads are a great way to capture attention and funnel audiences into the website, earning trust and attracting social media followers is an important investment, too. 

A growing, high-quality follower base represents increased organic attention on every headline published — allowing our paid media team to focus the majority of our hard-earned ad dollars on new horizons for The Assembly.


Our goal was to convert magazine subscribers. Ultimately, our strategy ramped up website traffic and increased their social following, which allowed us to snowball The Assembly’s community of (paying) readers. By the end of 2021, our Facebook ads achieved the following results: