Starting with a rigid paywall in 2022, Tamedia has made many changes in the past 18 months — all moving the Swiss media company toward its two-fold goal of increasing digital subscriptions and democratising data.
Tamedia is based in Zurich, with one national newspaper, Tages-Anzeiger, and several regional ones serving 66% of people of Switzerland who read one of the company’s news brands or magazines. In all, 175,000 people subscribe to one of its 16 brands that serve the German- and French-speaking part of the country, bringing in 70% of the company’s revenue.
Josua Diggelmann, head of subscription management, shared the company’s transformational subscription growth strategy as well the culture change that followed during INMA’s recent Media Subscriptions Town Hall.
A new subscriptions strategy
In 2022, Tamedia had a rigid approach to its paywall, pushing registration first with a 14-day-free start, followed up with subscription offers.
In mid-2022, the company started doing on-site promotions with timely, limited period offers on both free and locked articles.
“That worked very well for us and increased growth rates,” Diggelmann said.
Starting in March 2023, the team pivoted to a more advanced approach of segmenting users based on a propensity to subscribe score, using three buckets:
“For users in the high likelihood bucket, we pushed yearly subscriptions … while still working with on-site promotions, which are still working very well for us,” Diggelmann said. “We don’t want to optimise only the bottom of the funnel but expose more users to offers, testing different formats. With high likelihood, we tried more immersive, aggressive offering. The more aggressive offering worked much better.”
Yet the team didn’t want to ignore conversion rates at the bottom of the funnel so it did lots of testing, including:
Creating a paywall on locked articles during a promotional period.
Offering a shorter subscription period.
Testing a single offer vs. three offers.
“The three offers worked much better,” Diggelmann said.
They also worked on their subscribe button: a change as simple as, “If you’re a non-subscriber, push here for your free trial.” That also worked well.
“You can switch between yearly and monthly subscriptions because we wanted to be much more dynamic,” Diggelmann said. “Depending on which segment you’re in, you see different offers, different selections. We pushed yearly subscriptions on our paywall but also on our subscriptions landing page if you’re highly likely to subscribe.”
When it came to fighting churn, the team also leaned into the yearly subscription offer because, simply, retention rates are better. The team also tried to upgrade existing monthly subscriptions to yearly, showing subscribers the price advantage of doing so, while also offering “step-up pricing” — instead of going from 99 Swiss francs to 189 directly, they introduced an intermediate pricing step.
Changing organisation and culture
“To introduce all of those things, we had to go through some changes when it comes to our organisation and also the culture — how we actually work together,” Diggelmann said. “It’s a work in progress … but what works very well for us are interdisciplinary teams — breaking the silos, bringing sales, product, and newsroom teams much closer together in order to ease communication to be much faster, to be more consumer centric.”
To do this, Tamedia introduced joint weekly meetings where those teams come together.
- Peaks readership around a championship football game led the team to adapt the paywall, creating a specific offer that worked well for users as the football team went to the next level.
- A common understanding of KPIs to help base decisions on data. The team created a KPI triad: reach (unique visitors at the top of the funnel), sales (new subscription starts), and happy subscribers (the engagement of active subscribers). “The aim is to really make data accessible, readable, and actionable for everybody in the organisation.”
- Subscription reports for each of the teams, sent on a daily basis. Leadership is working on installing screens in all offices to better able teams to visualise KPIs.
“We want to make decisions based on data,” he said. “A common understanding really helps a lot so we speak almost the same language.”