Depending on where you are in your newspaper’s paymeter life cycle, you may still be experiencing significant growth in digital subscriptions. If you were an early adopter, you’ve probably experienced a slow down in acquisition. Slow enough that, in some cases, the stops are outpacing the starts. Yes, digital subscription churn is a challenge much the same way it is in print. If you’re like a lot of other newspapers, it may even be more challenging to retain digital-only subscribers through normal retention channels. While we’re much better at it now than we were when we started, the data we originally collected on a digital subscriber might have only consisted of a name and email address.
In other words, simply putting a meter in place and setting it at at an eight-pageview limit (the average among over 200 newspapers with a meter in place), worked very well in the beginning, but the number of subscribers you’ll get this way could be approaching the limit.
Typical efforts that most of us have used to combat the slowdown are:
- Introductory offers-at one point almost every newspaper was offering the $0.99 introductory offer. This idea worked well for quite a long time but, depending on what your full price conversion price was, it loses some of its luster in long term retention rates.
- Annual discounts-offering very large discounts to lock subscribers in has also proven to generate new subscribers but puts quite a dent in the revenue needs of your organization.
- Premiums or giveaways-in my experience these programs have worked, but not to the degree introductory offers or annual discounts have in terms of acquiring new subscribers.
- Day passes have been a very effective way to introduce readers to our content and more importantly, turn them from reader to customer. The data collected through the day passing process is more important than the actual revenue generated from this single transaction and allows you to create marketing messages that are specific to the day pass subscriber. Many media companies have used this strategy very effectively.
- The use of data for acquisition and retention is, from a long-term perspective, the best way to locate, acquire and retain subscribers. Larger newspaper companies have developed their own solutions to use data while others have partnered with experts to not only use the data to identify those most likely to subscribe, but to know how best to communicate with them. Either way (build or buy) isn’t inexpensive, but it’s the investment we’re going to have to make to grow.
As stated above, this ‘one size fits all’ approach worked well and got us this far, but beyond these traditional strategies for marketing and the advantage a CRM gives us, what’s the next step in the metering process that we need to move to in order to continue to grow our subscriber base?
Personalizing the reader experience. In my opinion, having the ability to adjust meter levels based on different factors is critical to continued growth. Targeting by user group, what content is being consumed, what part of your market the reader resides or in some cases, what country they live in, is critical to increasing conversion rates. Knowing what content resonates with our reader base allows us to be much more strategic with how we interact and what experiences we serve to them. This includes the ability to have multiple messaging options and offers based on specific criteria, including entry to the site from social media platforms.
Many newspaper companies have already deployed personalization strategies and are seeing the benefits in terms of higher conversion and retention rates. Several of the companies that provide metering technology offer this ability and are adding new features with every release. They get it and so should we.
The bottom line. If you believe digital subscription growth is a key component of revenue growth going forward, then we’re going to have to continually upgrade our strategy and technology to get to goal.
Personalizing the reader experience through the use of continually evolving technology and user focused strategy is the key.