Dennik N offers three tiers of subscriptions. And when the team took a deeper look at the engagement levels of subscribers at each of the different tiers, they saw something unexpected:
“Actually the more people paid, the less they have been engaged. They had less visits, less time spent,” Radoslav Augustin, online product manager at the Slovakian news media company, shared with INMA members at the recent European Media Subscriptions Town Hall.
The team at Dennik N wondered why.
“Our theory was that people actually wanted to support us, not that they necessarily wanted to visit us 10 times a day,” Augustin said.
To support that theory they ran a survey, in which 70% of respondents confirmed the hypothesis.
“We have to think very different when talking to the segments who are able to pay more. We are talking less about the articles and more about our mission, about journalism.”
Covered stories vs. stories that convert
When planning their content strategy, the team has to balance the stories that are important to cover with those stories that actually drive conversion with their audience.
To do this, Augustin said they devised a chart that looked at the articles produced, along with the number of new subscribers, compared to those topics.
“Most of our production was in the blue part,” Augustin explained. “Meaning we are writing just enough articles in relation to how many new subscribers we are bringing.”
After analysing this, the team realised that they might be producing some non-relevant content — for example, a column that is published every Friday, just because it’s Friday, not necessarily because it’s relevant. Augustin said they also ran stories that didn’t resonate as much with their readers, such as those about fires in Australia.
“We have to write more about topics such as the health care system in Slovakia, as well as [political] scandals.”
To discount or not to discount?
In the spring of 2020, Dennik N had thousands of subscribers that were up for annual renewal, at the same time the first wave of COVID-19 hit.
“We knew people might have problems continuing with full price,” Augustin said. “We didn’t know how to exactly position the messaging.”
They decided to be open. The editor-in-chief wrote a short letter, in which he thanked readers for their subscription and said he was happy to have spent the year with them. He also reiterated that in this time, Dennik N’s content was more valuable than ever. He stressed that this journalism costs money to produce, and in the end let the subscribers make a choice: to renew at full price, or accept a 50% discount.
Between 5% and 30% of readers continued at full price, Augustin said.
Introducing quality paid news to all of Slovakia
Dennik N’s newest strategy is a regional project, spreading its content across the country outside the capital. When deciding where to focus, they realised there was more competition in bigger towns, so they considered smaller towns that were neglected by the media at large, but had news issues they were concerned about.
The team surveyed residents of those towns with questions such as:
What are the problems in your town?
Who are the most inspiring people?
What [organisation, company, etc.] are you most proud of?
If we come to your town, how can you help us?
This survey helped Dennik N identify six towns to cover. The company moved journalists to those towns temporarily, held public events, covered journalism in that area, and increased local subscriptions.