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.







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Digital Subscription Growth, Data and Keewee

bullseyeDepending on where you are in your digital subscription growth strategy, things might be getting a little tougher in terms of continuing to grow the number.  Perhaps much tougher.

If you’ve lowered the meter, experimented with different pricing models (A/B or A/B/C testing) and marketed the heck out of them, using data to drive both acquisition and retention is the logical next step.

I talk about this in a previous post (Digital subscription growth-personalization is the key) and it’s important newspapers dive head first into the data pool in order to continue growth.


Because digital subscription growth continues to be very important to newspapers and in many cases, is one of the most important goals they have for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. In conversations with several newspaper companies in the last few months, several have stated their goal is 15%-25% growth in digital subscriptions moving into the next budget cycle.

Again, depending on where you are in your digital subscription growth strategy, the low hanging fruit is gone and has been for some time. Finding potential subscribers now requires a scientific approach that only data can deliver. Unless you’re one of the newspaper companies that have developed their own data solution, you’ll need a partner. Data companies like Leap Media, Marketing Solutions Group, Marketing G2 and many others can help find mirror images of your current digital subscribers and target them. Not only can they help you find them, but most can tell you the best way to contact them and can handle the communication process. If you haven’t explored these solutions, I highly recommend that you do for both print and digital strategies. Partnering with these companies or ones like them requires an investment, but if continued growth is the goal, you’ve got to do it.

But what about targeting potential subscribers on social? We’ve all sent subscription offers to our followers, but very few have seen substantial results from those type efforts. The same need for science applies to tapping into this very large audience. We need to use data to connect our content with the right audience on social.

While I’m sure there is more than one company that can help with social targeting, the one I’ve read about and researched is Keewee.

Simply put, Keywee uses natural-language processing to scan and understand what your content is about and then uses its vast database of historical performance to target audiences that have been shown to act on content like yours. They develop different variations of paid posts, with optimized bids for each audience target. They also provide insight into how your paid posts are performing with your targeted audiences, across platforms via an easy to understand dashboard.

While my description makes the process sound simple, what they do is fascinating.

According to an article on Digiday.com, The New York Times has been using Keywee since September and was reluctant to say exactly how many subscriptions it has sold this way. But the Times said the service “constantly outperforms” other channels. The Times said it’s getting a 150 percent return on subscription revenue for every dollar it spends this way. Another key stat: Half the people coming to the site this way are first-time visitors.

Keewee’s client list is growing to include Kiplinger, BBC and National Geographic to name a few.

Like other data initiatives, finding the right target audiences on social that have been shown to act on content like yours requires a investment, but the potential for continued growth is evident. Tapping into this very large audience requires science as well.








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Newspaper Digital Summary-11/11/16

Jeff NAAThis blog’s purpose is to keep audience and revenue executives up to date on the massive changes taking place in the newspaper industry by selecting specific stories that show how that is happening.  See how newspapers are addressing those changes in the top stories below including-Community News’ Fight to Succeed: ‘Sustain Local 2016’

At Hearst Newspapers, a New Digital Strategy to End ‘Flying Blind’ Just how far will local newspapers have to go to plant their flag commandingly in the fiercely competitive world of digital?

The New York Times thinks it can add a million more digital subscribers A weak third quarter at The New York Times isn’t slowing down the company’s digital ambitions.

How the Financial Times grows subscriptions by focusing on its journalism If you were to make a list of the most venerable and well-known publications in the world, the Financial Times would be towards the top.

Snapchat Doesn’t Want To Share Revenue With Publishers The way publishers and platforms collaborate is pretty straightforward: Publishers get ad space on the platform and then the platform splits revenues between the two.

‘No one’s making money on Facebook’: Video publishers share what’s on their minds Publishers aren’t about to abandon social platforms anytime soon — the potential reach is just too big and alluring — but the relationship isn’t exactly as warm as it used to be.

Community News’ Fight to Succeed: ‘Sustain Local 2016’ Local news sites have encountered a big disconnect in the digital world.

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Newspaper Digital Summary-11/4/16

Jeff NAAThis blog’s purpose is to keep audience and revenue executives up to date on the massive changes taking place in the newspaper industry by selecting specific stories that show how that is happening.  See how newspapers are addressing those changes in the top stories below including-The New York Times Says Not to Worry About Its 18.5% Drop in Print Advertising

Caught between a rock and a hard place-Publishers confess their biggest concerns  It’s a tough time for publishers.

More Wretched News for Newspapers as Advertising Woes Drive Anxiety The gloom began earlier this month, when Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, sent a memo to employees that said, in part, “every story should be as short as it needs to be.”

Publishers are using their newsletters as labs for new offerings  The email newsletter has gone from being an afterthought for publishers to a platform unto itself.

Is the events business right for media companies? Many local media companies are viewing events as a great way to bring in new revenues and support the future of journalism.

The New York Times Says Not to Worry About Its 18.5% Drop in Print Advertising The New York Times was obviously not happy to report an 18.5% drop in print advertising revenue for the company’s third quarter, but CEO Mark Thompson sought to convince analysts that it’s not the end of the world.

Digital ad spend up 19 percent in first half of 2016 Unsurprisingly, that growth in internet ad spend is largely driven by an increase in mobile and social spend.

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Newspaper Digital Summary-10/29/16 Halloween Edition

pumpkinThis blog’s purpose is to keep audience and revenue executives up to date on the massive changes taking place in the newspaper industry by selecting specific stories that show how that is happening.  See how newspapers are addressing those changes in the top stories below including-Why audience engagement must be appropriately defined

On the hunt for direct audience connections, publishers turn to desktop push notifications  Thanks to Facebook’s ever-shifting algorithm, publishers are scrambling to build direct audience connections through e-mail newsletters, revamped homepages and even desktop push notifications.

Plummeting Newspaper Ad Revenue Sparks New Wave of Changes With global newspaper print advertising on pace for worst decline since recession, publishers cut costs and restructure.

An Unlikely Trail From Digital To Print As today’s media landscape continues to evolve, media groups must remain ambitious.

On Mobile, Interstitials Get Attention, but Few Second Looks People are used to seeing a variety of different mobile ads, whether standard banners, or something a bit more interactive.

The Financial Times removed words from stories to convince readers to whitelist its site- 47% agreed  Hope isn’t lost for media organizations trying to get readers to stop blocking their ads. Maybe all they have to do is ask.

Why audience engagement must be appropriately defined  The lack of an agreed-to standard is creating an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between those attempting to define a measurement “standard” and those trying to show they are reaching an audience and have good (or great) engagement levels.

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Digital Services And The Opportunity For Weekly Newspapers

There’s no doubt that almost every daily newspaper has deployed a digital services program and they’re already seeing the benefits of such a program in terms of expanding their active account base and incremental revenue. From Gannett to Gatehouse and everyone in between, digital advertising revenue is at the top of the list of priorities in 2016 and it continues to become a larger part of the total advertising revenue picture. With global spending on newspaper print ads expected to decline 8.7% in 2016 (according to estimates from GroupM, the ad-buying firm owned by WPP PLC), it’s easy to understand why digital must be an essential component of every media company’s offerings. Yes, digital ad revenues aren’t growing fast enough to offset declines in print, but we have to push forward in expanding our offerings to our current customers and prospects. These programs do work for our customers and the incremental revenue created can grow quickly.

However, there are many weekly newspapers that haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity for themselves and their advertisers.  In conversations with several weekly newspapers,  I’ve heard some of the same reasons for not pushing this program forward in smaller/weekly markets:

  • We’re small and don’t have the resources to make it work.
  • The market isn’t large enough. Not enough prospects.
  • Our reps know print and won’t/can’t make the transition.
  • The mindset of the sales team isn’t where it should be about adding a more expansive digital product line.

While it might be more challenging, weekly newspapers can take advantage of this account growth/revenue opportunity more easily than one might think. The opportunity this product line creates is not bound by your print frequency or your core market.

I know this because I’m in the process of helping a very reputable media company (comprised of weekly newspapers) launch a digital services program from the ground up. They are excited about the opportunity this product line creates to better serve their customers.

Here are the highlights of what you need to know:

  • From the signing of the agreement with a digital services provider, your sales team can be selling digital services to current, former and never customers within approximately 45 days. Some companies can launch quicker, some take longer.
  • There are usually setup charges from the digital services provider along with a monthly fee, but the payback on these charges is quickly recovered with incremental sales once the program is launched. With many companies, regular monthly fees do not kick in until the program is actually launched and there is some flexibility in when the setup charges can be paid.
  • Training looks to be comprehensive and complete. The digital services provider I’m working with is walking side by side with the team in the development of an excellent training program. From product knowledge training to in-person sales calls to refresher training,  sales executives will get the tools they need to sell. Training is actually split into two on-site visits. First, the team gets trained and then they go into the field to use what they learned. The second training session is designed to identify challenges the sales team encountered in the field and work through them.
  • By working with the team, product bundles will developed that make the most sense for your market and for our team to sell. With so many products available, this process takes all the options and packages the right ones together. Single product options are also available.
  • Questions and concerned are addressed quickly. As you can imagine, starting at zero and building this program within any organization creates many questions. Since the success of the digital services partner is tied directly to yours, response rates (at least with the company I’m working with) and support have been excellent. Any team will need this, especially in the beginning.

Even though the process of launching any new product line is challenging, this very important one is one of the easier ones (and I’ve been involved in some pretty complicated ones over the years) and grows revenue for you and new customers for your advertisers. In discussions with our digital services provider/partner, the average amount of incremental revenue per new account averages between $350-$750 per month. Even at the low end of this range, you can see the potential.  You know your market better than anyone and if you do the math, you’ll see rolling out a digital services strategy is worth overcoming any questions or concerns you might have.

Last thing, someone in your market is going to take digital solutions to your client base. It should be you.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue to move through the process of rolling out this exciting program.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. My hope is this post provides enough information and encouragement to get you started.



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Newspaper Digital Summary-10/23/16

Jeff NAAThis blog’s purpose is to keep audience and revenue executives up to date on the massive changes taking place in the newspaper industry by selecting specific stories that show how that is happening.  See how newspapers are addressing those changes in the top stories below including –Internet mysteries: Where does the disappearing ad dollar go?

Digital will keep soaring, even with its flaws There are two narratives that have been emerging about digital advertising

Apple News is sending publishers traffic, but not revenue A number of publishers say Apple News is sending them a significant traffic boost in the past month, but it’s doing little to help them monetize it.

The Telegraph overhauls mobile app to focus on speed  Apps remain an important channel for the Telegraph’s core audience of paying subscribers. Now, to better serve this small but engaged user base, the publisher has redesigned its main news app around speed and convenience.

The Atlantic’s Website Will Now Let Some Pay to See No Ads The Atlantic would like to figure out a way to make some money off of the 8.5% of unique visitors to the magazine’s website who use an ad-blocker.

Google May Be Stealing Your Mobile Traffic I was surprised to find out that instead of redirecting users to an optimized version hosted on my server, Google was actually serving a snapshot of the page from their own cache.

Internet mysteries: Where does the disappearing ad dollar go? Publishers continue to gripe about ad tech’s complexity and transparency.

“GateHouse’s Newton: ‘We Want to Own More Local Newspapers’”  We are enormous believers in the future of local newspapers and local journalism, so of course we want to own more local newspapers.

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Newspapers Digital Summary-10/14/16

Jeff NAANewspapers are maximizing the opportunities within their print and digital audiences while developing new products and platforms.  See how newspapers are meeting the challenge including this week’s story-Publishers are pleasantly surprised by Google AMP traffic

Robots are polarising how we consume news There is good reason to be concerned about changes in news media distribution and the impartiality of news sources

One-Fifth of Apple iOS Users Avoid Ad Targeting in Apps Apple’s bulked-up Limit Ad Tracking feature is proving to be a hit among consumers.

Publishers are pleasantly surprised by Google AMP traffic  If some publishers are cooling on Facebook Instant Articles, they’re becoming hot and heavy with Google AMP, the search engine’s answer to Instant Articles.

How Massive Cuts Have Remade The Denver Post Journalists at the state’s largest newspaper once wondered how much more they’d have to endure. Now they’re finding out.

How Local Journalism Can Thrive with Partnerships, Community Engagement  Community engagement and developing local partnerships are the keys to success in sustaining local news organizations.

Most Millennials Have Installed Ad Blockers Millennials may be just as annoyed by ads that block content as other people are, and many are turning to ad blockers to help combat that

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Newspapers Digital Summary-10/8/16

Jeff NAANewspapers are maximizing the opportunities within their print and digital audiences while developing new products and platforms.  See how newspapers are meeting the challenge including this week’s story- McClatchy Strategy: Go Big and Small to Create ‘Moments’ With Each Reader

Google giveth; will Google taketh away? You can’t exactly accuse Google of being shy.

Younger adults prefer to get their news in text, not video, according to new data from Pew Research Digital publishers may be pouring time and energy into cranking up their video operations, but for a lot of their potential viewers, text is still the way to go.

Your Amazon Prime membership now includes magazines, the newest batch of content in the bundle Amazon on Wednesday said it was adding a new feature to its Prime membership program in the United States

McClatchy Strategy: Go Big and Small to Create ‘Moments’ With Each Reader Like other chains of dailies, the company is pouring resources into how to make the long leap from a no-longer-secure print past to an alluring but uncertain digital today and tomorrow.

Google AMP adoption brings performance gains for some news outlets Google today released new information about the impact that its open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology has had on some media outlets.

10 facts about the changing digital news landscape Digital news continues to evolve, pushed by a variety of innovations in recent years.

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Digital subscription growth-personalization is the key.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5.  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.






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