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Austin-American Statesman activates its digital audience with day pass

10 June 2014 · By Susie Ellwood

Cox moves to “One subscription. Total access.” model, enticing 55% of Austin American-Statesman subscribers to go digital and learning many lessons along the way.

Today, the need, the speed, and the ability to transmit information have expanded astronomically. And our product portfolio must reflect that.

The days when one single product — meaning the daily printed newspaper — delivered robust circulation volumes, high market penetration, and high readership no longer exist.

It is not enough to have “a” digital presence — we now have to serve up quality customer and advertiser experiences on multiple platforms and devices.

We’re competing every day with all of these news and information sources. We’re also seeing that how people consume news and information is shifting with the clock and the calendar.

This means we have to adopt technology, structures, and processes — and find the talent — to update our content, pivot our presentations, and continuously focus on customer habits and needs.

In the past 18 months at Cox Newspapers, we have moved to a “One subscription. Total access.” model, and 55% of subscribers at the Austin American-Statesman have activated their digital membership.

That number needs to keep growing. The goal is to have 60% of subscribers registered and 30% regularly engaging with a paid digital product at least once a month by the end of 2014.

To help drive engagement, we are also promoting digital-only subscriptions and daily digital day passes. We use log-in management software tools like Janrain to help stitch together a deeper understanding of how our customers use us across platforms and devices so we can better target them.

We use front page teases from our print product promoting special, interactive, bonus content. We send daily e-mails linked to our digital replica edition with no log-in required (once registration has been activated) and these daily emails have an incredible 27% open rate every day. So we know people are reading our content on their digital devices.

Additionally, we developed a weekly digital content messaging campaign that uses e-mail marketing, social media, and digital display advertising to drive subscribers to a specific front-page story each Sunday.

By choosing stories that are relevant to the interests and concerns of our subscribers, we aim with the campaign to elicit feelings of connection, engagement, and being in the know.

Toward the end of last year, we started offering day passes (sold at US$.99 cents) to our suite of digital products, and we’ve been pleased with the results.

It’s easy to see that those sales are driven by content – especially sports and big breaking news. It is like the standard single-copy buying experience but, in this case, we have the customer data so we can re-target them.

We’ve seen a high conversion rate to a paid subscription with these efforts.

It is empowering for the newsroom to see how their tweets and posts drive these numbers — and it’s great to be able to show reporters concrete ways they help to drive sales — and that they have ownership in the revenue numbers.

And because digital-only subscriptions are another important part of driving audience numbers and engagement, we’re putting specific, focused efforts against that.

Our key learnings around activating our digital audience are to listen to and learn as much as we can about customers, know their preferences, their habits, and their needs, and to adapt our portfolio of products – keep it simple – and constantly try new things to engage readers and help them navigate through the digital product offerings.


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About this blog

The Ideas Blog captures the practical discussions and case studies of news media company to grow revenue, audience, and brand. These case studies are written by INMA members for INMA members. Begun in December 2012, this content previously resided in Ideas Magazine; for an archive of past case studies, click here.

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Dawn McMullan is the editor of the Ideas Blog and senior editor for INMA. If you are an INMA member and would like to contribute a case study, please contact Dawn directly by clicking here.


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