Why aren’t we rewarding our best subscribers?

dscI have to admit, I’m hooked on Dollar Shave Club. Not only do they have really good products, but they also give me free stuff. The more I spend with them, the more free stuff I get. The more free stuff I get (which is usually a sample of some new product), the more I spend. It’s a vicious cycle that both of us enjoy.

I’ve been with them for several years now and purchase several of their products on a regular basis. I say that because I think I would be considered one of their “best subscribers”. I’m an EZ Pay customer, there’s been no lapse in service and I buy other products from them other than just the executive blades every month.

Getting my “box” from DSC again this month made me think about our print and digital subscribers, especially the ones that have been with us through thick and thin (multiple pricing actions, smaller papers, changes in  billing cycles). These hard-core subscribers have hung in there with us even though we’re asking them to pay much more of the tab for the opportunity to continue to get news and information from us.

So why don’t we take better care of them?

With the launch of All-Access programs a few years ago (that coincided with the launch of metering in most cases), many of us took a stab at creating a “membership” model to reward our subscribers. It goes without saying, but many membership models had one purpose: to make the price increase pill that went along with All-Access launches much easier to swallow. Most were done as cheaply as possible and weren’t maintained very well.

Some newspapers developed strong programs that really worked and were actually in place before the All-Access era began. I’m thinking programs like Bee Buzz Points from  The Sacramento Bee. In circulation circles, this program was the gold standard for a very long time and still is very effective and loved by their subscribers.

Now, I’m not advocating that we run out and build an exact copy of Bee Buzz Points for every newspaper.

What I am suggesting is we develop a systematic method to reward our best subscribers for their continued business. Whether it’s based on length of service, revenue per subscriber, the purchase of multiple products or some other metric, I’m positive the ROI, in terms of retention alone, makes the launch of a comprehensive rewards program, worth the cost.

And the cost is always the issue.

There are great rewards solutions in place at many companies that work very well. I keep a Delta Amex card because the perks that come with it (free bag check, priority boarding and frequent flyer miles) are clear benefits to me. The free companion ticket or the occasional pass to the Crown Room doesn’t hurt either. All of these “rewards” cost Amex money, but I’m sure the analytics prove that the loyalty that comes with them is worth it.

With the ever-increasing importance of consumer revenue and the need for print subscribers to be here for quite some time to come, it’s time we make the investment in a comprehensive rewards solution. Let’s do the analysis, complete the testing, corral the data and either create our own solution or partner with companies that know how to do this.

It is an investment that’s long overdue.







About Jeff Hartley

Career Newspaper Executive specializing in Consumer Revenue Growth-both print and digital. Social Media and Mobile Enthusiast. Frequent speaker on consumer revenue and print/digital audience growth.
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