4 publishers share digital subscription wins during the crisis

By Shelley Seale

INMA

Austin, Texas, United States

Connect      

With the huge surges in news media traffic during the coronavirus pandemic, publishers have implemented a variety of successful strategies and initiatives to not only attract new readers, but to also convert them to subscribers.

Four shared their stories at INMA’s Virtual World Congress on Thursday.

Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

From 2015 to 2019, Dagens Nyheter saw digital growth of 170,000 subscribers. Anna Åberg, head of digital at Dagens Nyheter, attributed two things to this growth. 

  • “Turn the Churn” project in 2017 that took a deep dive into the churn problem.
  • Election campaign in 2018 that gave a subscriber bump.
Dagens Nyheter has had several successful subscriber initiatives since 2015.
Dagens Nyheter has had several successful subscriber initiatives since 2015.

In the election campaign, DN opened the paywall so everyone could access the Web site if they registered during the three weeks before the election. The results were:

  • 55,000 signed up.
  • 18,000 of those became paying subscribers.
  • 10,000 of those are still subscribers today.

“The best thing about this campaign was that many of those were new readers,” Åberg said. “Eighty percent of those signing up had never had a DN subscription before.”

The team decided to do the same thing, but on a bigger scale, to drive digital subscriptions in 2019, offering companies and organisations the ability to give a free three-month digital subscription to their customers or members. This subscription had a value of €30 and would end automatically, so no strings were attached. 

“We had been doing this for almost a year when the corona crisis hit,” Åberg shared. The first response Dagens Nyheter implemented was to provide all critical coronavirus coverage for free, resulting in an enormous traffic boost. “This was not a business decision; it was a moral decision.”

A recent new campaign promotes the idea that “journalism is more important now than ever.”

“At the end of April, we actually reached a major goal that we didn’t think we would reach for at least another year, and that was to pass 200,000 digital-only subscriptions,” Åberg  said. Today, that number has grown to 222,000. The company is expecting high churn from these new subscribers, but the numbers are still huge for a country with a population as small as Sweden.

Le Monde, France

Le Monde had a big traffic increase starting in March 2020, but didn’t see big conversions right away. The only other event in digital history for the publication was in 2015 during and after the Paris terrorist attacks, Lou Grasser, subscriptions director at Le Monde, reported to attendees.

From late March to the start of May, Le Monde has almost doubled its digital subscriber base.
From late March to the start of May, Le Monde has almost doubled its digital subscriber base.

Conversions to digital subscriptions during COVID started coming soon after the traffic bump. From late March to the start of May, Le Monde has almost doubled its digital subscriber base. Grasser shared three key figures from April 2020:

  • 300,000 digital subscribers (+51% YoY).
  • 276,000 monthly visits (+89% YoY).
  • 53% paid content (+20% YoY).

“The new subscribers are seeing more pageviews than the regular subscribers,” Grasser said. “I can tell you that these subscribers are really engaged.”

Since the lockdown started, Le Monde has launched free live updates, a live Q&A initiative, a podcast, a WhatsApp thread, and a Zoom subscribers-only live event.

Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore

SPH launched a Personal Edition Package targeting individuals who are now working from home. This was targeted to business people who perhaps no longer had access at work to the business edition. It offers slightly less access with lower entry pricing.

“We launched it within a week after the lockdown,” said Eric Ng, head of marketing for SPH. There was a spike in traffic in March, which was up by four times in April. The Personal Edition was responsible for about 40% of that increase, with the regular Business Times Edition making up the other 60%.

SPH launched its Personal Edition Package within a week of the coronavirus lockdown.
SPH launched its Personal Edition Package within a week of the coronavirus lockdown.

“Between March and April, we think that while the increase in COVID helped to drive subscription, another key thing is that when the lockdown happened and more people being kept at home, that drives the demand for news,” Ng said.

Gannett, United States

Gannett launched the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in more than 30 markets. It goes beyond links and is written from the editors as a way to be more personal and cut through the clutter. These e-mail newsletters have been read more than four million times since they launched in March.

“Our sites are seeing huge digital subscriptions coming out of these newsletters,” said Senior Director for News Strategy Josh Awtry. Phoenix, for example, has attributed more than 300 digital subscriptions to the newsletter alone.

Gannett is navigating the transition from free COVID-19 content to premium content.
Gannett is navigating the transition from free COVID-19 content to premium content.

Laurie Truitt, vice president of digital consumer marketing, shared several initiatives launched over the past six weeks to encourage its readers to interact:

  • Regular subscriber communication from the editor.
  • E-mails promoting activation and log-in onsite.
  • A subscriber engagement journey with fun things to do at home, targeting users based on an RFV model.
  • Targeted print ads and onsite subscriber messages.
  • Promoting sign-ups for the coronavirus newsletter.
  • Re-engaging low and no use subscribers on Facebook.

The strategy isn’t just about people reading coronavirus-related content or not, Awtry said: “We look very closely at the psyche of what people are looking for, and try to adapt as reader trends are happening.”

About Shelley Seale

By continuing to browse or by clicking ‘I ACCEPT,’ you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.
x

I ACCEPT