3 early bundling success stories show its promise

By Josefin Olevik

Stockholm, Sweden


Bundling is quickly becoming the next best strategy of building revenue at news media companies. Last week at the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in Stockland, a few companies were invited to share a bit of their experiences. In lack of definitive answers, good examples can be useful to get a wider perspective. 

Scandinavian Schibsted, Polish Ringier Axel Springer, and Times of India shared some of their sharp thoughts on bundling.

Schibsted’s recently released “All access” bundle

Tor Jacobsen, senior vice president/consumer and subscriptions at Schibsted Media, has been a part of the company’s new bundling launch. It was implemented in Norway in August and in Sweden just last week, so the results are still young. But why not take every chance to celebrate? The first statistics are quite positive.

In Norway, the bundling has rendered 22,000 subscribers of the premium package (“All access” by just sharing the information to readers — no other marketing so far.  

Schibsted is moving to a common subscriber-centric strategy.
Schibsted is moving to a common subscriber-centric strategy.

“We have just started our bundling journey, but what we see is that we can use the ecosystem of all our markets,” Jacobsen said. “The stronger trademarks we have, the better for bundling.” 

Schibsted has the strong hand of the biggest tabloids and broadsheet in both Norway and Sweden in its favour, but the company also has financial magazines in both countries and a big podcast producer in Podme. 

“We are working with a subscription base that includes everything but also believe in optimizing for different user groups,” he said. “It could be sport or finance or audio. But what we see thus far is that the easiest is the best: access to it all. For a price that is not much higher than for one subscription.” 

The churn for Schibsted Media has been on 87%, so the aim was to change it. And what Jacobsen already can note is that the loyalty is growing rapidly among the bundle users: “We see the bundling as a part of the work to increase the loyalty among the costumers. It´s not the only measure, but we really think this is a good instrument.

Ringier Axel Springer takes a lesson from HBO

Alexander Kutela, CEO at Ringier Axel Springer, is looking to paid TV for bundling direction.

“When paid TV came, nobody believed in it,” he said. “But Netflix and HBO have revolutionised the industry. In Poland, TV channels are bundling now and I am convinced bundling is the future for media.” 

Kutela is talking about exceeding the user expectations and giving them the feeling of a really good deal. The best way of getting new customers is always coming back to satisfied users who can spread the word as ambassadors. Bundling is making it possible to over deliver, giving people the feeling of access to everything they could ever want. 

“There is a contrast between what people say they want and what they look at. When we put the question, they ask for documentaries and quality programmes for children. But in reality, our users watch sports and news.” 

There seems to be a human tendency to say things that make us look a little bit better than we really are — or maybe to just present ourselves in the way we would like to be: the kind of a person that watches nature documentary. 

“A lot of subscribers don´t even use their media regularly, but it still makes them happier,” he said. “They like to be a part of this group, knowing they are free to devote to it whenever they choose to.” 

Times of India bundles premium content 

Times of India is the biggest media group in India. Radhika Shukla, head of subscription growth, tells summit attendees that Indian readers are used to getting news for free. Due to that, the news media company is planning to focus on premium material like crosswords, podcasts, initialised sports material, and off-platform events in their bundling. 

Times of India puts readers in two groups for bundling: avid readers and casual readers.
Times of India puts readers in two groups for bundling: avid readers and casual readers.

Currently, the company is concentrating on measuring and diverting the readers into relevant groups like “avid readers” and “casual readers.” 

Their method with non-news bundling helps them increase reach, but most of the new readers are casual with a low engagement and are less likely to renew their subscription. This is one of the challenges Times of India has right now, confronting it with measurements and experiments. 

Shukla shared one of the company’s not-so-successful try-outs, reminding them failures are as instructive as any hits in this young business. 

“We tried to sell the articles one by one,” she said. “ou could buy the first three and four few very cheap. But we realised the readers created different identities and kept on buying. So, we quit that project, hopefully a bit wiser afterwards.”

About Josefin Olevik

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