Engagement and subscription benchmarks compare peers in the Americas and Europe

By Grzegorz Piechota

INMA

Oxford, United Kingdom

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How engaging is your news site? How many users have signed up for e-mail newsletters? How many users did you convert into subscribers? What is the average revenue per user?

Last week, Google released a number of benchmarks based on studies by FTI Consulting, FT Strategies, and Mather Economics, consultancies working with news publishers in the Americas and Europe. INMA partnering with FT Strategies for the GNI Subscriptions Lab in Europe. 

The consultancies identified common metrics for online engagement and subscriptions, providing averages for the companies in their labs:

  • FTI Consulting worked with 10 companies in the United States and Canada, mostly publishers of metropolitan daily newspapers, e.g., Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronicle or Toronto Star.
  • FT Strategies is working with eight publishers across eight European markets, both regional and national, e.g., El Mundo in Spain, Rheinische Post in Germany, or The Independent in the UK.
  • Mather Economics worked with eight brands across Latin America, mostly metropolitan or national, e.g., Clarin in Argentina, El Espectador in Colombia or Reforma in Mexico. 

Google sponsored a number of other initiatives, such as audience development labs or membership-focused programmes, with other partners. It summarised the findings in an interactive playbook

The playbook includes tools, such as user funnel diagnostic, that allows publishers to see how they are performing across engagement and subscription metrics vs. the peers participating in Google programmes. 

At an INMA meet-up in July, Bénédicte Autret, head of news partnerships for Google in the UK, and Lou Gautier, principal at FT Strategies, shared the initial findings from Europe:

  • Successful access models differ throughout the world, and Europe has been found to present greater diversity and maturity of markets than the Americas.
  • Performance does not correlate with resources: Smaller publishers often outdo bigger ones if they are focused and agile.
  • Digital subscription growth is hindered by four common blockers: poor internal alignment around reader revenue, insufficient knowledge of readers’ segments and needs, lack of focus and prioritisation of initiatives, data and tech stack missing customer-centric view or testing tools. 

Together with Google and FT Strategies, INMA plans to organise an open town hall in November to summarise the winning strategies observed in Europe.

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