Article Gifting Pays It Forward for Hearst Newspapers
2024 Finalist

Article Gifting Pays It Forward for Hearst Newspapers

Hearst Newspapers

New York, United States

Category Digital Subscriptions

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

In the past couple of years, several newspaper publications with paywalls have given subscribers a new benefit: They allowed them to share articles with friends and family for free. At Hearst Newspapers, we added a second wrinkle: requiring anonymous gift recipients to register an email address to view the article. This innovation takes a feature introduced by our peers in the industry and takes it one step further: making this feature a virtuous growth loop, where subscribers beget giftees, giftees become subscribers and those subscribers beget even more giftees.

In the initial phase, our hope was that this would result in a “two-fer,” creating an uplift to both our retention and acquisition efforts. While we’re still studying this for the long term, the preliminary results were so positive – a 9% reduction in churn among our test group of subscribers that saw the feature – that we moved from just a test on to rolling this out to all subscribers on all of our sites: in San Francisco; in San Antonio, Texas; the in Albany, New York, and all of our publications in Connecticut such as, and all of our smaller Texas and Midwest communities publications. 

In delivering on the campaign objective quickly, we utilized our customer data platform BlueConic to do things like track gift counts, inject the gift article button, create the share link and obtain email addresses before connecting data to our other systems such as our Sailthru email service provider and home-grown identity platform, Realm. We re-architected the system with the same functionality when we rolled onto a new React-powered front end called Platypus last year.


Results for this campaign

 From February thru September 2023, the gift article feature generated:


  • 500,000 net new visitors

  • 80,000 new email addresses acquired

  • 1,000 new subscribers


In the test period prior to that period there was a:


  • 9% reduction in churn among subscribers who saw the benefit was available


Since leads were first acquired at Houston Chronicle for this program, there has been a:

  • 2.1% downstream conversion to paid among gift recipients who provided an email address


There are other indications subscribers have been quite stoked to receive this benefit. In a survey of our subscribers in March 2022, the ability to share articles with friends or family was the most requested feature benefit. 

And when we sent an email to subscribers touting its availability, more than 50% read the email, an astonishingly high read rate for any email campaign.

Another aspect of the feature is super exciting. 

When gift recipients went to view the article sent by their friend or significant other, about 15% provided an email address when asked.

That is 3X the email provision rate when we tested imposing a registration step on visitors who have exceeded their monthly allotment of free article views.

Think about it: When someone you care about sends you an article they think you should read, don’t you want to find out what they’re talking about (even if you have to provide an email address to do so)?


To contact a company representative about this campaign, click here for the INMA Member Directory

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