ALERT: Global Media Awards entry submission deadline in only 1 week

Guardian’s digital subscriptions, services built on customer relationships

By Newsplexer Projects

Newsplexer Projects

USA

Connect      

Editor’s note: For more on this topic from each of these speakers, watch INMA Facebook Live interviews with Furness and with Bones from today in Stockholm. 

Kicking off the first day of the INMA Media Subscription Week 2.0 in Stockholm, Christopher Bones, author of Leading Digital Strategy and Optimizing Digital Strategy, told the audience of 285 people from 32 countries that the world for publishers has changed — not by somebody else, but by everybody else.

“Now, the individual, the customer, is creating the news,” Bones said. “Not you. It is the customer who decides whether they are going to believe you, and whether or not they are going to tweet your fact or somebody else’s.”

Christopher Bones, author of "Leading Digital Strategy and Optimizing Digital Strategy," kicks off Thursday's summit with thoughts on knowing your customers.
Christopher Bones, author of "Leading Digital Strategy and Optimizing Digital Strategy," kicks off Thursday's summit with thoughts on knowing your customers.

Publishers should be organising around their customers. Failing to be responsive to changes in customer habits and preferences creates problems around content, subscriptions, and advertising, Bones said. When surveyed, a majority of publishers listed general news as one of their main offerings. If a consumer believes they should get content for free and a publisher does not offer differentiation, that’s a problem.

“What you have to do is understand why customers in the market do not buy from you, because quite a lot more people start on your Web site with the intention of buying a subscription,” Bones said. “They then find lots of reasons not to do it. You want to understand something about your conversion rate effectiveness, not your conversion rate.”

Publishers must think about the relationship they are curating over time with their audience. The relationship aspect is misunderstood by many news brands. Future revenue will come from subscriptions and services, Bones said, both built on strong relationships.

“We think it’s our journalists who sell our newspapers,” he said. “Sorry, editors, I think it’s your readers who sell your papers. And it’s your readers who tell other readers whether or not to read your newspapers.”

When considering strategies to better understand and reach audiences, publishers can simplify visitors as hot, warm, and cold. Cold visitors are on the home page with low interest to buy. Hot visitors came directly to a page about memberships. Knowing how to address these visitors based on their specific intent can limit interactions impeding relationship building.

In a case study about The Guardian, Bones explained that while some readers were not interested in membership, they were interested in supporting the brand financially on a small level.

“That handed something to the Guardian that has caused an extraordinary change for a cause-driven, very distinctive news publication, but nevertheless a critical piece of understanding,” he said.

Richard Furness, The Guardian’s managing director of consumer revenues and publishing, said the company believes a successful reader revenue strategy is essential to keep its journalism open and freely available.

“If we can get this right, it means we can keep The Guardian’s independent journalism available to people around the world so it’s not just the rich — the 1% all around the world — that have access to good, quality journalism,” Furness said.

Richard Furness, The Guardian’s managing director of consumer revenues and publishing, explains the company's contribution strategy.
Richard Furness, The Guardian’s managing director of consumer revenues and publishing, explains the company's contribution strategy.

Understanding the relationship between print and digital is a vital part of future success for The Guardian. Simplifying its print process has eased competition for resources in the company: “We have a really open relationship when we talk about print,” Furness said. “We know it’s not going to be around forever. We don’t pretend it’s for future.”

While print is not a long-term strategy, The Guardian believes it can be an important digital subscription driver.

“What we’ve got to do is be in a position to replace those declining lines of revenue with more sustainable and reliable digital subscriptions,” he said. “Remember for us that digital subscription challenge is to make revenue from them and to build a product from them in the future while keeping every single word open and free.”

When its contribution strategy hit 1 million supporters, The Guardian launched a campaign to continue the momentum. In 2015, 70% of contributions came from the United Kingdom. Now, 70% of supporters come from outside the United Kingdom.

Furness shared five key lessons from the contribution initiative:

  1. Purpose: “Always start with talking about your purpose.”
  2. Pitch: “We constantly test this pitch. Every word, every phrase has been carefully tested over time.”
  3. Position (importance of journalism): “It’s probably the most important thing we did.”
  4. Make it easy: “You have to be on top of these payment systems. Make it easy for people.”
  5. Team: “In large media organisations, sometimes is quite hard to do something new.”

Over the past three years, The Guardian has learned a lot about itself, Furness said, re-emphasising the impact the reader contributions initiative has made to The Guardian’s overall strategy. “It’s become central to what we do.”

About Newsplexer Projects

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.
x

I ACCEPT