Marina Haydn, managing director of global circulation at The Economist said, quoted Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

This was on the last day of the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in London last week. As I listened to Haydn, it stuck me that everything we had been wrapping our heads around those days in London was really about how me make our readers and subscribers feel.

Marina Haydn, managing director of global circulation at The Economist, discusses how readers — and reader revenue — became a priority at the company.
Marina Haydn, managing director of global circulation at The Economist, discusses how readers — and reader revenue — became a priority at the company.

We saw fantastic examples of high converting content, customer journeys, activities to motivate log-in, use of data, and so on. It became clear that activities and content that is personal, that manages to strike a feeling, is the content that not only sells subscriptions, but also the content that makes the subscribers stay. 

Maybe we should be talking more about feelings? 

Change of focus 

Customer-driven decisions are buzzwords throughout the days in London. Super user, membership thinking, and building a relationship with the customer obviously is the new way of thinking.

Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy, showed us how we can move from focusing on the transaction to caring about building a relationship with the member or subscriber. A great perspective she lifted was “What’s in it for the customer? What’s in it for the business. In between you will find the trusted relationship.” 

Ultimately the goal is to reach the point of where the customer stop looking for other options. 

Amedia started asking, “How many of our readers can relate to the story?” and changing the production of content accordingly, discovering new areas of content, such as the broadcasting of ultra-local children’s soccer matches. As Pål Nedregotten said: “We produce content for the fans instead of the flybys.”

Charlotte Gordon, vice president for international consumer marketing at The New York Times, and Alan Hunter, head of digital, Times of London, discuss building their revenue brands.
Charlotte Gordon, vice president for international consumer marketing at The New York Times, and Alan Hunter, head of digital, Times of London, discuss building their revenue brands.

Charlotte Gordon, vice president for international consumer marketing at The New York Times, and Alan Hunter, head of digital at The Times/Sunday Times, both showed us examples of how we make great additions to the main product by using digital platforms, aligning the products to fit the super users instead of everybody else. By aligning the product to fit the super user, the product will experience a distinct differentiation that will both convert and retain. 

Reading = usage = revenue 

The path to creating a super user is long, and every super user has had a first encounter with the brand. Registrations and log-in were also well documented during the London Summit. All in all, most media houses recognise the importance of registered users, but there are some “best in class” examples worth taking home.

Jess Ross, chief product officer at Fairfax Media, discusses how to keep the reader in focus.
Jess Ross, chief product officer at Fairfax Media, discusses how to keep the reader in focus.

Jess Ross, chief product officer at Fairfax Media, showed us how the company is working on motivating users to register, with the ultimate goal of converting them by finding pathways to habitual engagement. Fairfax is also keeping the reader in focus, discussing how “It’s all about making you feel like you are ready for anything.” Jess said Fairfax is always thinking about the readers’ feelings. On a personal note Jess introduced me to the new word: “Intrinsically,” describing things that are a vital, important, or natural part of something. Love it! 

Gadi Weiszlovits Lahav from Financial Times also gave us a taste of how FT is giving away free content, allowing users to form a habit and then motivating them to pay to keep the habit. 

Data is the key 

As the industry prepares for the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which kicks in next month, sharing how we use data is more relevant than ever. 

Many of us were intrigued by Editor-in-Chief Peter Wolodarski’s presentation on the way Dagens Nyheter has created amazing results by re-organising the way it uses data. The acknowledgment that rapid growth creates increase in churn made Dagens Nyheter look differently on how it used data.

Peter Wolodarski, editor-in-chief at Dagens Nyheter, shares the company's fiction-free subscription process.
Peter Wolodarski, editor-in-chief at Dagens Nyheter, shares the company's fiction-free subscription process.

Understanding that subscribers were joining because of content and leaving because of something else made the company restructure the way it works and join forces, using data to optimise customer journeys with impressive results. 

Astrid Jorgensen from Politiken showed us how the company uses customer data and insight to successfully communicate and justify a major price increase. Priceless! 

As I go through my notes and the fantastic presentations, I feel intrigued, curious, and humble to be able to learn from some of the best in the business. The subscription economy is growing nine times faster than the S&P 500 (The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index) and many of our media houses are amongst the most successful companies in the subscription economy. 

We are a hard-working industry, working strategically and systematically toward set goals, but I am sensing a change. With more data and analytic tools, we are starting to work from the outside in, instead of the inside out. In the process, we are paying closer attention to the readers, listening to what they want, and learning to understand their needs. 

The newest step in the process is learning how to trigger the readers’ feelings — either to motivate them to join or to keep them using our products. Since we know that the part of our brain that controls emotions, the amygdala, doesn’t have any language, it will be interesting to see communication made to trigger feelings in the future. 

Maybe we all need to follow The Economist’s example handing out insect ice cream and making ugly fruit smoothies? Bring it on!