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3 European media companies drive growth with current subscribers

By Paula Felps

INMA

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

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INMA

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INMA

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INMA

Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

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New is not always better — sometimes growth comes from reimagining the potential of existing assets.

“Experimentation with different subscription models — such as bundling different brands, focusing on niche markets, offering micropayments, or providing content for professional development — can drive growth and differentiation,” INMA Readers First Initiative Lead Greg Piechota wrote in his summary of the event. “This must be supported by continuous research, understanding of customer needs, and cross-departmental collaboration. Sometimes the research finds there is no desire for new things.”

During the recent INMA Subscription Growth Master Class, media leaders shared how they are maximising the value of subscriptions for consumers and institutions through niche offerings and bundling, while one presenter offered some research into consumer opinion of micropayments.

JP/Politiken builds a B2C business

As part of JP/Politiken Media Group in Denmark, business publisher Watch Medier has the largest business newsroom in Denmark, publishes 27 digital business media editions that extend into Norway and Germany, and enjoys a profitable business model.

Building a media business is about the journalism, not the bells and whistles, Anders Heering, director of JP/Politiken Business Media and CEO of Watch Medier, said.
Building a media business is about the journalism, not the bells and whistles, Anders Heering, director of JP/Politiken Business Media and CEO of Watch Medier, said.

Anders Heering, director of JP/Politiken Business Media and CEO of Watch Medier, said Watch Medier publications share a simple look and rely on subscriptions for revenue. Heering noted it bypasses “cool visual effects and features,” choosing instead to pour nearly all its resources into creating written content for target markets. The target audience is decision-makers within the industries it covers or decision-makers with an interest in the business side of the industry.

The freemium model invites users to visit the site and receive free newsletters, but to read the original content requires a subscription. Those don’t come cheap, either; a subscription costs around US$978. That has all but eliminated B2C customers. The subscription journey typically begins with a company buying a single license for a subscription, then expanding to provide subscriptions for more employees.

Ultimately, Heering said, the thing the company has learned through this process is that what drives subscriptions goes beyond a great user experience or clever use of data or implementing all the latest whistles and bells.

“We learned that it’s possible to build a successful business around classic independent journalism and that’s what I’m most proud of,” he said. “It’s about us doing relevant business journalism and having an uncompromised focus on building our subscription base from scratch.”

Gazeta Wyborcza leverages existing content to create new offerings

Media companies can use content they already are producing and significantly increase their number of subscribers. Joanna Kwas, director of sales and digital development at Gazeta Wyborcza, said the company began creating different offers for businesses and groups like universities, media houses, marketing and PR departments, nurses, students and women. Results from these offerings were good, but Kwas said the team knew this sector had more potential.

That potential was in relevant content to the people of Poland who were dealing with a pandemic, remote work, war in Ukraine, and inflation. Gazeta Wyborcza recognised people were looking for mental health support.

Gazeta Wyborcza was the first in Poland to launch a dedicated subscription offer aimed to boost employee potential, Joanna Kwas, director of sales and digital development, said.
Gazeta Wyborcza was the first in Poland to launch a dedicated subscription offer aimed to boost employee potential, Joanna Kwas, director of sales and digital development, said.

Gazeta Wyborcza was already producing the right kind of content needed to support this new product for employees. Last year, they became the first in Poland to launch a dedicated subscription offer aimed to boost employee potential.

The company found about 90% of people who used the employee benefit subscription had no access to them prior. About 86% said they want their subscription renewed, 73% said they find the information they subscribe to useful in their personal lives, and 80% of employees read the website several times a week.

“We achieved our goals above our assumption after launching the benefit offer in 2022,” Kwas said. “The number of subscriptions stalled in the B2B offer, but the ‘for employee’ segment increased by 31%.”

Mediahuis uses bundling offer to meet customer demand

To grow their digital paying subscriptions, Mediahuis in Antwerp, Belgium, sought to understand customer needs through market research. It conducted surveys among both current and prospective subscribers to find out what features were most relevant and appealing to them.

The research was aimed at understanding what keeps customers engaged, what motivates them to continue paying for subscriptions, and what fosters loyalty to Mediahuis’ brand.

“In our search for digital growth, we listened to our customers,” Katia Debusschere, the company’s manager of acquisition and conversion, said.

Mediahuis research revealed users' most desired feature was access to other news brands, Katia Debusschere, the company’s manager of acquisition and conversion, said.
Mediahuis research revealed users' most desired feature was access to other news brands, Katia Debusschere, the company’s manager of acquisition and conversion, said.


Data gathered from the surveys was compiled and analysed, and each feature was ranked and scored based on responses.

The most popular feature among customers, according to the market research, was “access to other news brands.” This implies subscribers value the ability to access content from a variety of news sources under a single subscription.

In short, Mediahuis focused on listening to its customers in its pursuit of digital growth and found that providing access to multiple news brands is a key factor in attracting and retaining subscribers.

Debusschere said Mediahuis is bundling its services to create value in its digital offerings, stay competitive in the Flemish market, and align with international trends in media subscriptions.

Measuring demand for micropayments

Aske Kammer, associate professor of journalism at Denmark’s Roskilde University, shared findings from new research about unbundling news for some customers.

Working with Thomas Spejlborg Sejersen from the Danish School of Media and Journalism, Kammer conducted a 1.5-year study (completed just last week) on micropayments as a potential way forward for news publishers as part of a research project, “Micropayments and Datawalls.”

The researchers wanted to see if there was a feasible middle ground where micropayments might be an alternative to the “good old subscription model.”

News consumers, on the whole, prefer the good old subscription model, Aske Kammer, associate professor of journalism at Denmark’s Roskilde University, said.
News consumers, on the whole, prefer the good old subscription model, Aske Kammer, associate professor of journalism at Denmark’s Roskilde University, said.

They collected more than 2,720 valid responses. Overall, Kammer said, “people who are willing to pay for online editorial content prefer subscriptions to single payments by a significant margin” in each of the three media categories: articles, podcasts, and videos.

“I was somewhat surprised because I thought more people would go for the cheaper single payment option,” he said.

Researchers also looked at the respondents’ normal media use outside of the ALLY app, and found people who “engage in gaming are more likely to prefer subscriptions.”

When it comes to respondents’ previous payments for other kinds of online media, people “who previously paid for gaming and/or streaming of podcasts, radio, and music are more likely to prefer subscriptions. But, Kammer noted, “people who previously paid for online news were more likely to prefer single payments.”

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