For the longest time, publishers have prioritized advertising revenue over all other sources. This was because digital media wasn’t at the forefront as much. However, in the past decade digital media has come through and it’s stronger than ever. As with print, digital media also works based on subscriptions and advertisement revenue primarily.
With more netizens joining the platform, we have more news websites launching. As with any industry, the digital publishing world has had its ups and downs. The pandemic has accelerated it’s growth significantly. Publishers have been able to depend on the subscription revenue they make as their primary source of income. Although it’s taken publishers a while to polish their strategies, there are some discoveries that have been known to help with subscriptions.
What is a subscription?
Digital publishers work on the revenue they make. It helps them get the technical support and journalists required for the job. Subscriptions help publishers to streamline their revenue and most importantly, work independently without having to depend on external agents. What started with BBC has now spread into all newsrooms – allowing people to pay for news.
Subscriptions are recurring payments made to news websites by users in good faith in exchange for honest and authentic information. This would be collected monthly or annually depending on the nature of the subscription. The specified fees collected adds to a large portion of some publishers while for others this sum may be smaller. Either way, a lot of it has been accelerated since the pandemic.
Subscriptions help publishers to make money and continue work. These are now easier than ever with micropayments and net-banking facilities that have helped users trust the authenticity of online transactions and use them frequently.
Why should digital publishers go subscription-first?
It may be difficult for all publishers to only depend on subscriptions. This is based on your team and subscriber base. It is however always the better model to adapt. It’s more dependable than other means. You get to interact directly with your audience and the demand is simple – authentic content.
While one may have to balance other forms of revenue, subscription first would simply mean prioritising subscription revenue over the others. Why should you prioritise being a subscription first? It helps in many aspects :–
- Flexibility : you can try paywalls that work for you and make quick changes based on market behavior.
- As your revenue is primarily from your customers you can deliver better returns on customer acquisition costs.
- It’s a reliable form of revenue – with subscriptions you may secure long term recurring revenue with a loyal audience base.
Publishers who are subscription-first get to have a steady stream of revenue flowing in. it’s easier to record and find patterns with it. It also provides insight to how your website is performing and where you can improve. Most importantly, being subscription-first allows you to rely on the most important agents of your content – the consumers.
How can digital publishers improve their subscription revenue growth
There is a sequence of steps that users follow before they unsubscribe from your platform. Fewer clicks, downhill engagement and lesser website visits. Once a user has given up interest in your content, there’s not much you can do. Therefore it is important to upkeep your subscribers in every limit possible.
Almost half of all your new subscribers will churn in the first 3 months. With the right approach and tactics you should be able to achieve more long term subscription plans. You may not be able to control all the reasons a reader may have started to subscribe to your website but you can control if they’ll consider to stick around.
Subscriber Acquisition and Retention
What is subscriber acquisition?
Put simply, it is the process of finding and attracting new subscribers to your subscription business.
What is subscriber acquisition cost?
The Subscriber Acquisition Cost or the SAC is the amount of money that a business entity spends for each new subscriber that they gain. In simpler terms, this refers to the price that you have to pay in order to acquire a new subscriber.
Publishers like Boston Globe, National Review and the San Francisco Chronicle are implementing customer data strategies. This allows to unify first party data across channels and sources into individual level customer profiles. It also helps to take action on that data in real time. Why the fuss?
Subscriber acquisition is simply the means to attract more subscribers. This can happen by any means. Maybe a newsletter, a perfectly timed sign up alert or a practical subscription plan. If you have access to reader data and behaviour, you should be able to provide personalised experiences and sign up incentives to each user.
However, it’s important that your subscribers stay.
Subscriber Retention is the process by which publishers ensure that subscribers stay. Using AI and machine learning innovatively can get you data like audience analysis, or predictive modelling. Even something as simple as renewal of plan, can help you with retention if done right.
The most obvious way to go ahead about this is by being experimental. Find paywalls that line with your goals and be ready to experiment with them. Allow your audiences to interact with these paywalls and change them at intervals to see the response. Having a hybrid paywall has definitely proven to help many publishers. It allows publishers to attract various groups of target audience while allowing various audiences to find plans that help them.
Effective subscriber retention strategies
9 subscriber retention strategies by API ( American Press Institute )
Read more details about subscriber retention strategies here
How have digital publishers increased subscribers during the pandemic?
Subscriptions in digital news have grown 3 times. The industry has had several spikes, be it on OTT platforms or e-learning. As consumption has increased so has the filtration of content providers. More people have established their loyalty to content providers but this isn’t a stagnant behavior. With more subscriptions, netizens have also been more lenient in their experiments.
This is where subscription models come into play. While there has been an increase in subscriptions, there have been subscribers who haven’t been able to pay during the pandemic. It’s important to find subscription plans that are flexible to accommodate all users.
Having a fixed plan may work great if you’ve established your reader base and have provided a plan that’s appreciated by all subscribers. However for most publishers, a hybrid model is what seems to act perfect. It allows them to churn out content and put an appropriate price tag. Publishers choose the premium content that goes behind the paywall, they tease the leads of stories for all users but keep the analysis for the subscribers and sometimes charge on niche topics. This allows subscribers the flexibility to pay for articles they’re invested in and to keep coming back to the website.
Elements that add to the success of subscriptions : —
Subscriptions work on internet banking. With the introduction of micropayments, online payment has become seamless and user friendly. It is therefore important that publishers invest in a safe and dependable monetization tool. This would help in several ways.
- You’d have all data and receipts of your subscribers. This helps during cancelations, refunds and offers.
- You also get to keep enough details to trigger a timely deduction of fee from the subscribers.
- Online payments need to be smooth on your website. If a subscriber has one bad experience on your website, their chances of not returning increase.
- A proper monetization tool allows your users to be at ease with the subscriptions.
While running offers can seem redundant, it’s important to keep in mind the audience you’ve targeted. Based on the demography, you could make use of seasonal offers, student concessions, membership gift cards etc.
Having annual or quarterly offers can help readers feel motivated to stay subscribed to your website. Added benefits are also a good way to satisfy your audience.
The new york times, the washington post, wall street journal, game informer are among some of the digital publishers who have observed significant growth during the pandemic. There has been undeniable growth in subscription revenue of all media houses – both big and small. As subscribers are willing to pay for the content they consume, we’re seeing more content creators daring to set up paywalls.
As the trend continues to progress, it’s important to reflect on existing subscription strategies. It’s also time we reconsider the consumer behavior and make revenue plans that work for both the publishers and subscribers for mutual benefit.