Digital events, subscriber-only podcasts should enhance premium subscriptions

By Rebecca Alter

Viafoura

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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By now, your media company is probably navigating the world of subscription revenue. So, ask yourself this: Is the “premium” experience you offer consumers in exchange for their subscription truly worth the cost?

Pumping out top-quality content is a great way to generate interest in your brand, but it isn’t enough to persuade people to pay for a subscription — not when countless other media companies are doing the same thing.

Premium subscribers, or "whales," bring in a huge portion of revenue, but the value needs to be apparent. Image courtesy of Денис Марчук and Torulus from Pixabay.
Premium subscribers, or "whales," bring in a huge portion of revenue, but the value needs to be apparent. Image courtesy of Денис Марчук and Torulus from Pixabay.

Instead, you need to learn about your audience, identify your company’s most active community members, and then hit them with unique and exclusive experiences.

Rob Ristagno, the CEO of the Stirling Woods Group consulting agency, explains that the top 10%-15% of your most valuable active readers are your “whales” and can generate up to 90% of reader revenue.

Premium membership experiences should be designed to engage these revenue-generating whales to keep them paying and forging precious connections on your digital properties. Here are the types of subscription experiences that will stand out to these community members and strengthen their interest in your brand.

Exclusive interactive digital events

Consumers are gradually becoming comfortable with attending virtual events in place of in-person ones. As a result, some publishers are beginning to reserve special events for subscribers to enhance the value of their subscription programmes.

Just look at The New York Times’ “Subscriber Events.” According to the publisher, “Subscriber Events are live and remote experiences that bring All Access Plus subscribers closer to The Times, to ... journalists and to the larger subscriber community.”

Meaningful connections formed through digital events like these will encourage subscribers to value their surrounding community, which means more active audience members on your properties who understand the worth of your subscription programme.

When it comes to remote events, it’s essential to also integrate an interactive element into them. Consumers are hungry for social interactions in these isolating times. By including an interactive component, you can establish close connections with your active subscribers and brand.

Member-only online discussions

Consumer interest in online engagement has grown by 53% in the past few weeks.

That said, hosting conversations for your subscribers is an engaging way to amp up the quality of your subscription programme. But this doesn’t mean you need to rely on complicated technology or require extensive resources to implement these experiences. An engaging subscription experience can be as simple as offering an exclusive live chat or conversation section for members to discuss and debate interesting topics and latest events.

“The New York Times and the Financial Times have encouraged more debate on their own platforms to improve the experience for paying readers,” according to a Digiday article.

These gated conversation-based events are also an effective way for sports media companies to add value for registrants or subscribers in the absence of in-person audiences.

“Organisations that optimise for engagement, as opposed to chasing the transaction, will find success and profitability in the long-term relationships they develop,” says Robbie Kellman Baxter, who wrote a novel on retaining subscribers and recently spoke at INMAs Virtual World Congress.

Subscription-only podcasts

Podcasts have been picking up steam over the past few years. Not only do audio experiences help publishers connect with individuals in an engaging way, but they can also be more personal to consumers compared to written content.

As publishers begin to see the value of podcasts, they’re now being leveraged more frequently to help drive subscriptions. The Athletic, for example, is starting to explore subscriber-specific podcasts to monetise the platform in a way that also benefits subscribers.

Subscription-only podcasts have also contributed to more than 70% of all subscriptions to Slate’s membership product, Slate Plus.

Podcasts are typically engaging, entertaining, and informative — all qualities that can enhance an ordinary consumer experience.

Curated newsletters

Personalised newsletters crafted specifically for your subscribers can be a powerful way to build your audience’s interest in your brand. You simply need to draw on their first-party data to understand what types of content they’re engaging with.

For The Washington Post, personalised newsletters earn triple the engagement than regular ones.

“It’s not about throwing all of your content together and calling it a membership programme,” Ristagno says. “It’s about strategically selecting the content that is of greatest value to your whales and crafting a membership programme with additional features around it.”

You now have all the knowledge you need to execute engaging experiences that activate your most profitable community members. But don’t wait to get started: Without an attractive membership experience, your subscribers likely won’t remain paying community members for long.

About Rebecca Alter