Ready your reader funnel for success in 2024 and beyond

By Ijeoma S. Nwata

INMA

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

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Funnels, segmentation, and automation — it’s no surprise these are core topics at an international conference about media subscriptions. 

Executives from The Washington Post, Handelsblatt, and Nikkei shared their strategies around customer acquisition at INMA’s Media Subscriptions Summit on Thursday — sponsored by AdvantageCS, Chargebee, Chartbeat, Google, FT Strategies, Piano, United Robots, WordPress VIP, and Zuora.

Segmentation leads to loyalty, retention

 The Washington Post is a legacy brand with over 100 years in print journalism and a regional, national and international reach. Anjali Iyer, the company’s global head of lifestyle marketing, said segmenting its readership base from a political engagement perspective meant distinguishing three consumer profiles per the brand’s U.S. political engagement strategy.

“Segmentation, it’s the basic foundation of loyalty and retention,” she said.

With this in mind, she pinpointed areas in which a retention and acquisition strategy are framed:

  1. Content with breadth and depth — showcase geo-relevant and diverse material
  2. Personalised messaging for users and not treating them as a monolith
  3. Automation: “Automation is important because it's how you scale.”
Segmentation is key to loyalty and retention, Anjali Iyer, global head of lifestyle marketing at The Washington Post, said.
Segmentation is key to loyalty and retention, Anjali Iyer, global head of lifestyle marketing at The Washington Post, said.

By defining the distinct groups by their interest in politics and their level of engagement, the marketing team readily customised messaging. More personalised content helps to optimise the consumer experience and can drive conversions.

Specific tactics, like personalisation, can help drive conversions, Iyer said.
Specific tactics, like personalisation, can help drive conversions, Iyer said.

Testing different tactics will led to a proof of concept that provided insights related to more authentic ways to convert readers, Iyer said: “Leverage data to guide strategy.”

A mix of online and offline marketing broadens reach

Wiebke Meeder, chief marketing offer of German business daily Handelsblatt, highlighted statistics that impact the way they market the Handelsblatt brand.

The key pillars of the business are digital via news business and digital ads, print, and live. The live content is “a mixture between an event business plus a membership model,” Meeder said. 

Despite having 84% of readership as digital subscribers, there is an increase in news avoidance in Germany. This behaviour affects paywall performance. Meeder and her team looked for patterns and decided on balancing performance and identity.

“It’s really hard to measure brand effects,” Meeder said.

Handelsblatt leveraged its live content for a new business model, Wiebke Meeder, the company's chief marketing offer, said.
Handelsblatt leveraged its live content for a new business model, Wiebke Meeder, the company's chief marketing offer, said.

In focusing on their live content as a new business initiative, Meeder’s team chose to launch a membership model for female thought leaders — high profile business leaders at exclusive events and an exclusive newsletter that they pay for.

Meeder admits there was pushback, mostly from men, but that there was just as much positive feedback from women within their German-speaking market.

The first Pulse summit occurred in 2023 with T-shirts and other branded items that reflected the new business initiative. This strategy reached and connected the Handelsblatt brand to an underserved market in a unique way, despite some of the negative feedback.

Another initiative was an effort to champion diversity and take a stand against the far-right extremism in Germany. In 2023, Handelsblatt and their publisher partners led the multimedia campaign #Zusammenland — diversity makes us stronger.

More than 500 brands participated to show support via online and offline advertising and other placements across Germany. As a major media group with a goal of celebrating differences, Handelsblatt positioned itself as a brand that reflects on the role journalism has in a democracy.

Test your hypothesis (and test again)

“Digital subscriptions launched in 2010, the first time any Japanese newspaper offered digital subscriptions,” Mio Kataoka, product manager at Japan’s Nikkei, said.

In briefly detailing the history of the newspaper, which primarily focuses on business and economic news, Kataoka showcased Nikkei’s unique approach to addressing its three categories of users.

Nikkei’s main product is nikkei.com, which is only delivered in Japanese to cater to the local market.

Mio Kataoka, product manager at Nikkei, said the company first launched its digital subscriptions strategy in 2010.
Mio Kataoka, product manager at Nikkei, said the company first launched its digital subscriptions strategy in 2010.

“Japan’s population is 120 million,” Kataoka said. “The target group is white collar workers who live in urban areas like Tokyo and are 20 years of age or older.”

Norihiko Sawa, principal research engineer at Nikkei, meticulously outlined the hypotheses and A/B testing strategies to show the pain points and insights from these groups within the funnel.

Strategic changes to the marketing funnel led to increased conversions for Nikkei, Kataoka said.
Strategic changes to the marketing funnel led to increased conversions for Nikkei, Kataoka said.

Nikkei’s strategic mindset and discipline in maintaining a process of challenging assumptions, designing and scrutinising hypotheses, ultimately inform how they incorporate changes in their marketing funnels.

They acknowledge they prioritise a convergence of total pageviews. After making changes, the best result was an increased conversion rate occured when articles based on reader interests were highlighted in the newspaper’s app.

About Ijeoma S. Nwata

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