Six-square-meter screens by the news desk, personalised dashboards for each editorial department, real-time updates, and weekly, monthly, and annual analysis reports. When Expressen (a national Swedish newspaper with 5.4 million visitors each week) launched our digital subscription service with a freemium model in 2018, our data-driven strategy played a big part in our growth from 0 to 125,000 paid digital subscribers in 2.5 years.
Entering the Facebook Accelerator programme, the Expressen team was already accustomed to following and trusting data when it comes to big decisions. In our cross-functional team where marketing, tech, editorial, and analytics were all represented, we expected we needed to take great strides and make big changes to see results. Instead, we found greatness in small details.
Learning more about subscribers
Our first challenge in the accelerator was thinking of agile tests that could be done quickly without involving too many people in the organisation, something that could slow down our work. No major tech changes that took several iterations to improve; no larger strategic decisions that would require board or editorial management approval.
The ideas piled up as we were guided to learn more about our subscribers by looking at the data. For instance, we noticed that our churned subscribers were still very active on our site — as active and engaged as our app users, actually.
We created a test to see if we could bring those churned subscribers back by targeting them through our ad system on-site, but it was unsuccessful. However the idea of making those former subscribers — who were obviously still very interested in our news and stayed on our site reading our free articles — subscribers again lingered.
Our next test, inspired by learnings in behavioural economics, was presenting our churned subscribers with an opportunity to return to our premium subscription at a discounted price — but for a longer period of time. Hopes were high when we sent out an A/B/C-test with one, two, or three offers to choose between, thinking that the choice between payment every three, six, or 12 months would bring more of our former subscribers back to us.
The result? Honestly, we’re not quite sure.
Although it seems like being able to choose between three different discounts made more former subscribers take the offer, the tracking wasn’t working properly and the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.
A new test
At this point, we wanted to try something we were 100% sure we could track, something we could see clearly if it was a hit or a miss.
Earlier, a design change had been made to our news app and mobile site. A CTA button asking readers to simply “Buy Premium” had been added to the header and performed well in terms of conversions. Our desktop users already had a CTA button, but design-wise it blended into the editorial content, and the actual call to action was not as clear as it now was on mobile.
We decided to tweak the design and simply make the button big, bright, red, and less wordy. The result we saw was immediate, trackable — and positive! After a few weeks, the data confirmed the trend we could see only hours after switching the design: a 2.7-times increase in traffic and a 2.3-times increase in conversion from that CTA button.
Part of the effect can be attributed to the button being perceived as something new that catches the eye, but even six weeks after the beginning of the test, the strong trend stays.
Strengthened by these results, our small-scale testing continues. Currently, we are experimenting with push notifications aimed at subscribers. What time of day, which subject, and what form gives the best open rate, read articles, and read minutes? Our data sample is yet too small to say, but we are hoping these tests will be one more small change that leads to great results.
The Audience Analytics Accelerator programme is a joint initiative between Facebook and INMA. The Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator programme helps news publishers build sustainable businesses. Funded and organised by the Facebook Journalism Project, each Accelerator includes a three-month period of hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, grants administered by non-profit journalism organisations, and regular reports on best business practices. The Accelerator’s executive director is Tim Griggs, an independent consultant/advisor and former New York Times and Texas Tribune executive. Facebook and INMA have partnered to bring dozens of publishers from around the world into INMA's Readers First initiative. This case study reflects the partnership between INMA and the Facebook Journalism Project to develop excellence among leading global publishers in reader revenue initiatives.
Banner photo by Photo by Anna-Karin Nilsson.