U.S. publishers’ views on digital subscriptions: OPA Study

According to an Online Publishers Association study in 2013 digital subscription strategies in the United States, three media company executives responsible for subscription strategies emphasized that it is not just charging for content, but then retaining customers by engaging them, that is key. This can be accomplished by applying data-driven audience analytics to the subscription strategy.

“Retention and churn are huge issues for a digital subscription business. This has been a world of revelation – it’s not something the publishing industry had to deal with before. There are thresholds in usage (engagement) that show when people are likely to cancel subscription; this is what drives our product management – measure of success is how much new features drive the engagement on the site.”
– Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director, FT.com

“Engagement is very important to success – we need to convince people to spend more time with the New York Times and thus value their subscription more. Our recommendation engine is one such effort.”

– Denise Warren, EVP, Digital Products & Services, The New York Times
– Kim Miller, VP, Digital & Traditional Consumer Marketing, PEOPLE brand, Time Inc.
– Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director, FT.com
– Saira Stahl, VP, Corporate Strategy, Gannett Co, Inc.
– Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director, FT.com
– Christian Nimsky, VP, Digital Interactive Products & Services, Consumer Reports
– Saira Stahl, VP, Corporate Strategy, Gannett Co, Inc.

“We take inspiration from companies like Amazon, which spend a lot of time acquiring a customer and then spend an equal amount of time programmatically [i.e. applying data science] keeping the consumer engaged.” – Michael Rolnick, Head of Digital / Chief Digital Officer, The Wall Street Journal

–Source: “Digital Subscription Strategies Pay Off,” Online Publishers Association, reprinted with permission

The connection between subscriptions and the ability to sell higher-value advertising units is ramping up.

“When consumers login on the website we know who the they are…we can marry the behavior to demograph- ic and subscription data. This allows us to not only target the consumer as we pitch our internal products and content, but also allows advertisers to target better.”

“We are making investment in data analytics – this not only drives our consumer-focused efforts, but is some- thing we can also sell to advertisers. Our interactive tools allow us to know the consumer better – I think this is going to be hugely valuable to advertisers, this is where we will get a premium. Our total ad sales have grown 30% in the last few years even as print declined; we have not had an issue with trading print dollars for digital dimes.”
– Joshua Macht, EVP & Group Publisher, Harvard Business Review Group

“We have grown advertising business every single year since we’ve introduced subscription. Because of the deep relationship we have with the audience and the data we have on our subscribers we can guarantee that advertisers reach very specific scarce audiences. We consistently achieve a premium above market CPM.”

“We have more data on our consumer demographics that we can share with advertisers. We can show that this is a more valuable audience – more affluent, more digitally oriented. Moreover, we can also offer advertisers more information about what content consumers are interested in.”

World Newsmedia Network has published Global Digital Media Trendbook each year since 2006. The 2014 trendbook contains 500 data sets and 230 pages of analysis about digital media usage and revenue patterns, including this article. To download the GDMT free executive summary, go to www.wnmn.org
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