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Satisfying Audiences

5 strategies to grow print, digital circulation

17 September 2013 · By Lynne Brennen

Growing readership requires optimising marketing channels, understanding acquisition marketing, keeping the subscribers you have for more time, right-sizing your content pricing, and turning digital traffic into print subscribers.

So you signed up for Circulation Management this year and it’s a tough class. The teacher mumbles, she gives out complex assignments the night before they’re due, and it’s hard to see the board from the back of the class.

Lucky for you, I got the final exam from a senior who took the class last year and the answer is: circulation profitability up, print volume flat and digital volume up 

But you can’t just write that down. You have to show your work. Here’s a black market copy of the an A+ essay:

To achieve circulation profitability growth, print volume stability, and digital volume growth, the tactics are surprisingly simple, but extremely difficult to implement.

The five elusive strategies and tactics are:

  1. Optimise marketing channels. Get rid of those low-retaining channels. Let’s admit it, we’re talking 15% to 20% retention. Replace the subscriber churning channels like grocery store kiosks and telemarketing with e-mail. You’ll need a good e-commerce backend to accept the orders, but you’ve found a new, low-cost channel. As the e-mail channel grows, don’t add those orders to the base. Be brave and bring down the low-retaining orders to keep starts flat in the near-term. You’ll benefit in the mid- and long-term.

  2. Understand acquisition audiences. The e-mail channel is most effective in winning back former subscribers. But, honestly, most of the new orders coming in through all the other channels are churning former subscribers, too. Segment acquisition marketing into at least three groups: recent former subscribers, less recent former subscribers, and never subscribed. Track each segment separately and determine which channels/products/offers are best for each.

  3. Keep subscribers longer. Get subscribers to pay by an auto-renewing method — credit card or bank draft. Set a goal of increasing the volume of subscribers paying by through auto-renewal by 25% this year. Increasing digital channels will help perpetuate this important shift in the subscriber mix.

  4. Right size all subscriber pricing. Charge appropriately for all content! Print and digital. Those subscribers who value the content will pay for it. Those subscribers who don’t value it will churn. Know who’s who, and charge accordingly ... but charge. The right mix will maximise circulation volume and revenue.

  5. Convert Web site traffic into print subscribers. Like e-mail, newspaper Web sites should be considered a valuable and robust channel. Newspaper Web sites offer up the most qualified prospects available to its sister print newspaper. Don’t forget the two requirements to fully leverage the Web site channel: Present a subscription offer link on every page, and send the prospect to a strong e-commerce backend.

Quick, hide the paper. The teacher is looking this way. Good luck on the final!

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About this blog

The Satisfying Audiences Blog aims to reflect print and digital content not just across platforms but extending into consumer events, non-news-related subscriptions and other audience vehicles for newsmedia companies. This blog written by INMA members is dedicated to identifying the emerging linkages between content, audiences, and platforms. The blog is an initiative by the INMA North America Division Board of Directors.

Meet the bloggers

Lynne Brennen
New Leaf Media Consulting
Montclair, New Jersey, USA
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Nadine Chevolleau
Consumer Marketing
The Toronto Star
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Kathleen Coleman
Sales & Marketing
S-R Media
Spokane, Washington, USA
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Kevin Curnock
Executive Director
Business Improvement
Brunswick News
St. John, New Brunswick, Canada
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Jim Fleigner
Managing Partner
Impact Consultancy
Santa Monica, California, United States
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Claire Hawley
Vice President of Audience Development
Tribune Publishing
Los Angeles, California, USA
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Dan Johnson
Vice President,
Business Development
Gilbert, Arizona, USA
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Sandy MacLeod
Chief Operating Officer, Print
The Toronto Star/Metro English
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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John Newby
The Times
Ottawa, Illinois, USA
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Nicki Purcell
Chief Digital Officer and Senior Vice President of Consumer Sales
The Dallas Morning News
Dallas, Texas, USA
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Dan Schaub
Corporate Director of Audience Development
The McClatchy Company
Sacramento, California, United States
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Maria Terrell
Director of Content
Dallas, Texas, USA
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New York City, New York, USA


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