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INMA’s Media Subscriptions Summit offered product lessons, too

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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Hi there.

I’m on my way back from a week in New York where I met many people — including leaders from Google, Apple News, and a sit down with the executive editor of The New York Times (to prep for our fireside chat in London this April). 

But the main reason for the trip was our INMA Media Subscriptions Summit, which was packed full of practical, and surprisingly open, case studies on all things reader revenue. While nothing replaces being in the room, I want to share a few product lessons that I took away, as well as a great discussion we had on organising to deliver during the workshop I hosted on building habit forming features and products.  

Drop me a note if you have anything to share on these subjects. I genuinely love hearing from you. I’m at Jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.

Thanks, Jodie

A few product takeaways from the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit

The annual subscriptions summit is an intense week of information focused on how we can drive subscriptions, engage, and retain users, and how we organise ourselves to deliver all this. 

Let’s start with the audience takeaways. The image below shows the poll asking the audience in real time what made the biggest impression on them from the week:

INMA Media Subscriptions Summit moderators Idalmy Carrera-Colucci and Robert Whitehead share results of an attendee poll about impressions from the summit.
INMA Media Subscriptions Summit moderators Idalmy Carrera-Colucci and Robert Whitehead share results of an attendee poll about impressions from the summit.

 

Internal collaboration is highly important. It’s all too easy to get sucked into day-to-day jobs to be done, but we need to work with other teams to deliver in the best way possible. I expand on this more below.  

Audience-first is also something people need consistent reminders about. If you have a subscription product, news avoiders are not your audience.  

The best demonstration of this were some practical thoughts from Riske Betten at Mediahuis Netherlands, who also sits on the INMA Product & Tech advisory Council:

  • Offer a solution > not a product.
  • Listen to your customer > don’t assume you know them.
  • User data gives you the what > user insights give you the why.
  • Add features > remove unwanted features and focus on speed and an excellent experience.
  • Personalise the experience > don’t assume that one size fits all.
  • Focus on retention > not acquisition.
  • Measure customer satisfaction > not everything.

Riske gave a presentation on product-led growth, the third most popular topic (possibly the second if we account for differences in spelling!).  

What is product-led growth? 

The best answer came from one of her colleagues who said that it’s when “the product is so good it goes viral by itself.” That was also the message from the entire advisory council and a note of caution at the end of my workshop on habit forming features and products: The product itself has to be excellent; no feature can make up for a bad product. That means it is easy to use, fast, and meets customers’ needs.  

I’d also like to take this opportunity to give an honourable mention to whoever wrote “work harder” as their one impression! 

A few other notes: 

  • Focus on mobile came up time and time again (which led to me doing some promos for our upcoming virtual deep dive on mobile Web).

  • Audio is something that most people seem to be working on and buoyant about.

  • There is resounding data that annual trials are the way to go — not short trials and absolutely no free trials. 

  • Dynamic paywalls are more and more popular (also evidenced in the word cloud) but need a lot of attention and careful experimentation at the beginning

If you would like to check out other insights from the week, I high recommend the following on LinkedIn:

And if you want trend data, Chartbeat gave a great presentation at the INMA study tour, which you can check out here.

Date for the diary: Last chance to sign up for the three-part deep dive on mobile Web

As we heard time and time again at the subscriptions summit, we need to have a better focus on mobile. Luckily we’re ahead of the game and have an exceptional deep dive over the course of three 2.5 hour modules held March 14-21. Full details are here.  

Habit forming features and organising to deliver

My colleague and fount of all knowledge around media subscriptions, INMA Readers First Initiative Lead Greg Piechota, asked me to host a workshop on habit forming features and products. Today I want to share two things from that workshop: one is the key takeaways and the other is an interesting discussion the room had about organising to deliver objectives. 

Key takeaways from my presentation on habit forming features and products:

  • Numerous research reports show frequency is the biggest indicator of loyalty. Many companies use daily active users (DAU) as a core metric. 

  • Look for high-impact opportunities where you see frequency, relevancy, and volume with user habits.

  • Specific features can be used for different audiences. Be focused on who you are building for and why you are building those features. 

  • Active personalisation can give you a lot of information; remember it is a value exchange so be clear to tell them what they get in return or make great specific offers (for example, The Washington Post offered a digital copy of the front page from the day you were born to learn users birthdays) 

  • Habit building features should be front and center. Consider how you showcase them in prime locations in the user journey, such as through onboarding and navigation.

  • Great features won’t make up for a bad user experience. 

  • Organise to deliver. The above are reliant on a number of departments working together. To be effective, you have to harness the right parts of the organisation.

During the summit workshop, attendees discussed the Hooked Model for building habit.
During the summit workshop, attendees discussed the Hooked Model for building habit.

During the workshop, we got into a good discussion about this last point: organising to deliver. 

From the perspective I have on the industry, it’s clear to see that squads are highly effective. But it’s not right for everyone. If you decide to move to a squad structure, know that it takes time to make it work and you have to be committed.

One thing that became apparent is that squads don’t work as well if they sit alongside everyone’s day jobs. We were told by one company that it meant more meetings, more layers of bureaucracy and sign off because each department also wanted to sign off.

Death by committee is a thing; we need to make sure we are building efficient structures — not making it harder.  

Within a squad, everyone needs to be empowered. A good leader is essential to bring people together and keep everyone on track. Recognise skill sets and desires. The people in the squad will have opinions, data, and smarts so it’s the leader’s job to bring those out and get people committed. 

Clear mission is critical. We heard that OKRs work well (for more on using OKRs, check out this blog post). If you can have a singular metric and focus on one job at a time, you are setting the squad up for success …

But please remember, this isn’t a silver bullet, and you won’t see overnight success. Building effective squads takes a lot of time. 

The real secret here is laser focus and enabling teams to deliver on that focus with as little red tape as possible. That’s the entire goal and one that you as a leader need to focus on.

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product and Tech Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product and Tech Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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