Audience-first, bundling, collaboration are key in today’s media landscape

By Yuki Liang


New York, New York, United States


The Wall Street Journal was at the forefront of innovation when it introduced the first paywall subscription model.

Sherry Weiss, chief marketing officer at Dow Jones, reflected on this pivotal moment: “We saw it as an inflexion point, a time where breakthrough innovation happened and forged our path forward.”

Now, facing another “paywall moment,” the industry is entering another transformative phase: “Readers have more options than they ever had before for news, and they have never had higher expectations of their digital experiences,” Weiss said.

During INMA’s Media Subscriptions Summit on Thursday —  sponsored by AdvantageCSChargebeeChartbeatGoogleFT StrategiesPianoUnited RobotsWordPress VIP, and Zuora — insights from Weiss, alongside Tor Jacobsen of Schibsted and Alexander Lydecker of Bonnier News, underlined the shift toward an audience-first approach, the strategic importance of bundling products and services, and the critical need for cross-functional collaboration.

Audience obsession

 A profound commitment to understanding and catering to audience needs is at the heart of their strategies. This shift signifies a departure from traditional content delivery toward a more nuanced audience engagement.

Within the audience, there are different segment types, different behaviours, and different needs. For audience obsession, it is about building strategies to meet the needs of multiple audience types. 

Most generally, The Wall Street Journal’s core audience is tied to business and finance professionals. But that’s not the only way it thinks about future readers.

“When you base your audience on industry interest alone, you limit your reach and potential for growth,” Weiss said. 

The WSJ’s editorial offering is relevant to a much broader audience, she said, and the company is conducting an expansive audience study in partnership with the newsroom, the product team, and outside partners.

For Weiss, this is an opportunity to really look at the audience and understand their attitudes, behaviours, and how they view themselves, and then translate those attitudes to prospective audiences. 

“What we are finding is that that increases our future reader pool by as much as 10 times,” Weiss revealed, highlighting the growth potential.

Weiss’ strategy at Dow Jones emphasises understanding the audience and actively expanding its base by identifying and targeting growth audiences defined by subscribers’ attitudes and ambitions, not just their business or finance interests.

This nuanced approach to audience segmentation underscores the importance of catering to a broader spectrum of readers, thereby driving growth and diversification.

The art and science of bundling

Bundling has emerged as a critical strategy for enhancing subscriber value and satisfaction. Schibsted’s journey with digital subscriptions in the Nordics illustrates the challenges of sustaining growth as digital subscription rates plateau.

Jacobsen advocates for flexibility and the transition from isolated products to comprehensive bundles, showcasing a broad offering for diverse audience needs. This approach has yielded positive outcomes in content consumption, cross-product usage, average revenue per user, and loyalty, demonstrating the technical and customer-centric benefits of bundling. 

Jacobsen outlined a clear vision for Schibsted’s evolution from offering isolated products to creating dynamic bundles that combine news and entertainment, tailored to meet the varied interests of their audience.

This transition to different price levels and more personalised experiences reflects a strategic shift toward offering more value and flexibility to subscribers.

 Similarly, Bonnier News’ innovative bundled subscription combines over 50 brands, marking a significant achievement in subscriber engagement and growth.

“We have a direct uplift, from the basic subscription level of 30%,” Lydecker noted, underscoring the effectiveness of its bundling strategy.

This ambitious approach, launched in early 2023, signifies a major step forward in simplifying access to a wide range of content, offering a unified experience across all brands and apps. The introduction of this bundled subscription model, built on the foundation of an existing subscription, exemplifies Bonnier News’ commitment to innovation and customer-centricity. 

Breaking down the silos

The leaders unanimously agreed upon the importance of dismantling organisational silos to foster innovation and responsiveness.

Lydecker's transformation of Bonnier News into a cross-functional powerhouse exemplifies this shift: “The trick here is that we have combined every competence in each team,” he explained, detailing how integrated teams have dramatically increased its operational speed and focus.

This collaborative approach accelerates product development and market responsiveness and solidifies the foundation for sustained innovation and growth in the dynamic media landscape. 

The insights from Weiss, Jacobsen, and Lydecker provide a compelling look into the strategies that are setting the direction for the media industry’s future.

With a focus on expanding audience engagement, innovating through bundling, and fostering collaborative organisational cultures, these leaders are navigating their companies through the complexities of the digital era.

Their efforts highlight the dynamic nature of the media landscape and the continuous need for adaptation and innovation to meet the evolving demands of readers and subscribers.

About Yuki Liang

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