Subscription based content has the platform and the potential to be huge in 2018. With the development of IoT (internet of things), along with the ever evolving markets in the publishing industry, major players will have a plethora of different avenues to explore and ultimately successfully monetise online. Publishers are in turn wising up to these new opportunities they have, and this blog will highlight and be a quick recap of a few different techniques that have been undertaken in order to maximise the return on subscription based content.

Publisher Strategies

British newspaper The Times has been behind a hard paywall since 2010. Essentially, unless you were a paying subscriber, you couldn’t read any of the content online. Last year in March however, they made the decision to scrap featuring breaking news and to merge both The Times and the Sunday Times websites. The plan was to focus on an editions based strategy that updates three times a day: 9am, 12pm, and 5pm. The times head of digital stated “Readers don’t come to us for breaking news; they can go to the BBC and Twitter for that, which are free… They come to us for the authority of our reporting, opinion and analysis. Breaking news has become a commodity, and it’s hard to charge people for it. We believe in the power of digital editions.” The website also had a complete revamp, including a new mobile friendly app for a cleaner and friendlier user experience.

Since this revamp, The Times has seen their subscription sales jump a whopping 200% in the last year. Subscriber attrition rate is also at a record low, down 4% compared to the previous year’s figures –Catherine Newman, Chief Marketing Officer at The Times. 

The Spectator is a politics and culture magazine that saw its first issue in 1829. Incredibly, the publisher is now adding 400 new paying subscribers a week. The Spectator’s editor Fraser Nelson believes that the sudden influx is solely because of people’s willingness to pay for quality journalism. Whilst people are willing to pay, for quality journalism, the paywall software that was implemented in January of this year that’s being used is almost like a secret weapon. The software –provided by Evolok- gives higher detail in the data that’s available to what subscribers are consuming, so they can further develop how they turn the anonymous user into a paying subscriber.

The software also allows them to refine and improve customer experience for their existing subscribers. Customer retention is key. This software isn’t just for their website, it has also been deployed to convert podcast listeners and email newsletter subscribers into paying customers.

Mediapart

Just a short trip across to the English Channel, as opposed to the Atlantic (see NY Times), there’s a French publisher that’s causing a bit of a commotion in the industry. Nine year old Mediapart are somewhat experts when it comes to making readers pay for content. Through two weeks in March of 2017, they signed up 3,000 paying subscribers, bringing to total up to 140,000 paying readers. Each day it adds another 400. Considering they don’t sell print, those are envious numbers to have.

What’s interesting seems to be the tactic behind how they’re gaining such an influx of readers and subscribers. Quite simply, it’s opportunistic marketing done perfectly. Mediapart used the impending French presidential election to drive up their numbers. Campaigning for the election began in mid-2016, and the marketing team saw and grasped an opportunity. They offered a deal of three months for 11 euros, which incidentally is the price of one and they never looked back. Internal figures state that traffic doubled from 2 million to 4 million monthly visitors.

What’s even more mind-boggling is that the publisher doesn’t advertise. All of the revenue comes from paid subscriptions. The publisher received nearly €2m in profit in 2016. But it’s not just reading political content that has driven subscriptions. They’ve given their readers a chance to join in with the conversation. Subscribers have the ability to publish their own blogs –which aren’t behind the paywall, so anybody may access them-. It empowers their readers to have a voice, and this tactic has been received with welcome arms.