When APAC media companies reduced churn rates, growth began

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


By Chandler Wieberg


Austin, Texas, United States


Just in time for the Asia/Pacific News Media Summit, INMA’s Greg Piechota solved a mystery.

Piechota, INMA’s Readers First Initiative lead, explained on day one of the summit that while demand for news around the world spiked during 2020 — with a median growth of 130% — news brands in the Asia Pacific didn’t experience that effect. Instead, he said, “publishers in Asia/Pacific were growing very slowly for the whole of 2020 and first half of 2021, then they accelerated and grew faster than the rest of the world for the rest of 2021.”

But what was surprising, he said, was that the region enjoyed a longer spike in demand for news than other areas and sold more subscriptions than they were selling pre-COVID — even as their growth slowed. 

Piechota spoke during the two-day virtual summit, sponsored by Google News Initiative, Notix, Piano, and Protecmedia, at which Google announced two opportunities to help news media companies in the Asia/Pacific region grow (details below).

All evidence points to churn

So the mystery that Piechota sought to solve was about murder: Who killed the growth?

Deeper investigation into the matter found churn’s fingerprints all over the crime scene, and during Thursday’s presentation, Piechota explained how that affected the growth of Asia/Pacific brands.

In 2020, the average churn rate was 6.1%. But, in the two years since, publishers have been able to drop that number to 2.3%, which has had a tremendous impact on their growth.

“With 6% churn, basically your growth rate becomes flat in just two years and you stop growing,” he said. “And when you look at the survival rate, with 6% churn, you basically miss 50% of the new subscribers within a year. Only when you reduce churn can you grow faster.”

He reminded summit attendees that strategies such as bundling can help publishers gain more subscribers and suggested that developing and driving habit-forming features — such as newsletters, games, and community features — can help activate and engage subscribers.

“This is similar to what we know from the history of print newspapers, where they started to add supplements and sections in order to grab a bigger share of the total market,” Piechota said.

Google announces two programmes to help APAC media companies with digital growth

Speaking of growth, the Google News Initiative — one of the summit's sponsors — announced two ways they are supporting diversity and innovation in news around the world.

1. News Equity Fund: “Google has always had a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Google News Initiative has particularly made them a key pillar in the news industry,” said Irene Jay Liu, News Lab lead/APAC, at Google. “It is meant to support eligible expenses to support original journalism for the provision of news.”

With this funding programme, Google is committed to doing its part by providing support for news organisations that primarily serve underrepresented communities around the world, she said. Applications close on Thursday, July 21, and more details available here.

APAC Innovation Challenge 2022: This is the third APAC Innovation Challenge Google has launched, with funding being provided in 2019 and 2020 to 41 projects out of 470 applications from 15 countries.

“This Innovation Challenge is an effort to give everyone an opportunity to inject new ideas and innovation into the news ecosystem,” said Filip Shen, news industry relations and programmes lead/APAC Partnerships at Google. “The goal of the programme is to create a more sustainable and diverse news ecosystem.”

The Innovation Challenge is open to every news innovator small or big, including start-ups and established publishers. Applications close on Tuesday, August 23, and more details are available here.

The summit continues on Friday. Registration is free and includes post-event recordings of the virtual event plus speaker presentations.

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