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Subscriber Retention

“INMA Knows” is a content surfacing project designed to personally curate all association resources on a single subject of high interest to INMA members


We all know it's more expensive to get a new reader than to hold onto an existing one — 25% more expensive to be exact, according to INMA's Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota. From best practices in onboarding and newsletters to research on removing payment friction and how best to get the newsroom involved, INMA has a deep trove of case studies, research, and opinions on how to keep readers as subscribers. Habits are hard to break, which is why news media companies need to help their readers create them. 

Dawn McMullan

— Dawn McMullan, INMA

Exclusive INMA material on “Subscriber Retention”

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One-third of reader churn could be saved with payment retries

Research requested by INMA on 13 million news media subscribers worldwide shows news publishers could save thousands of subscribers by optimising payment retries.

22 July 2020

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Wall Street Journal data makes the case for a robust onboarding experience

A study by The Wall Street Journal showed habits made in the first 100 days of a digital subscription predict whether a new reader will drop the subscription.

30 June 2020

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Die Zeit bolsters retention and bottom line with membership programme

Die Zeit’s membership programme, Freunde der Zeit, offers subscribers a host of exclusive benefits such as live events and digital offerings. The programme heavily involves the newsroom and is changing the editorial staff’s relationship with readers.

26 July 2020

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Telegraph creates new scoring metric for audience engagement and retention

The Telegraph’s solution to a content strategy plan that would most influence reader subscription, engagement, and retention was to develop its own metrics model. Here’s how “Project Habit” came about and what it’s taught the newsroom.

10 August 2020

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What can AI teach us about behaviours leading to churn?

INMA Researcher-in-Residence shares two models from the data of two news media companies, showing how loyalty scores, last visit recency, and social shares factor into reader churn.

05 July 2020

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Times, Sunday Times decrease churn by 49% with digital butler

The Times and The Sunday Times used JAMES, a digital butler driven by Artificial Intelligence, to determine what stories readers were looking for.

11 June 2020

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Newsday Onboarding and Engagement Email Campaign

The original email series offered minimal touchpoints, including monthly newsletters and occasional alerts before getting price increase notifications. The new engagement program, which begins after the welcome series, includes 17 unique emails that will rotate throughout the customer's lifecycle, highlighting ...

01 March 2020

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What newsrooms can learn about reader retention from a former DJ

Focusing on what your audience needs and wants can help media companies increase retention and reduce churn. Are you listening?

30 August 2020

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Segment customers by churn risk, price elasticity for long-term profitability

Knowing whether a reader is a high or low churn risk or has high or low price elasticity will help news media companies determine how to price and present products to them.

08 June 2020

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In crisis and normalcy, why measuring and maximising subscriber lifetime value is key

A Webinar for INMA members looked at how news publishers can calculate and maximise the lifetime value of their digital subscribers — an especially relevant topic as the industry works through the COVID-19 crisis.

18 March 2020

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Subscriber retention during the downturn

An INMA Readers-First Meet-up took a look at the current traffic and subscriptions bump from COVID-19, as well as tactics publishers can look at to capitalise on that. One publisher, The Seattle Times, shared lessons learned from one of the early COVID-19 hotspots in the United States.

16 April 2020

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Nikkei improved subscriber retention with 3-question survey

Nikkei launched its digital edition 10 years ago but faced challenges making readers aware of new products. The news media company changed all that with a short survey.

03 May 2020

Read More supports social causes with subscription offers

When protestors filled the streets in reaction to strict new abortion laws, Wyborcza saw an opportunity for action: Each time someone bought a new subscription, the money was donated to the All-Polish Women’s Strike.

18 January 2022

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Daily Sun uses multi-platform, new content strategy to generate revenue

As print revenues declined, the Daily Sun started creating new products and expanding its platform offerings to reach subscribers.

28 December 2021

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33 strategies help media companies keep new subscribers

E-mail and newsletter expert Dan Oshinsky shared 33 tactics for onboarding a new subscriber, to build habit and engagement in the first critical 100 days.

21 December 2021

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ROI is strong with media brand marketing, acquisition campaigns

Acquisition marketing spend has retention effects on current print and digital subscribers, which should be included in the ROI calculations from marketing campaigns.

14 December 2021

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Survey shares media companies’ thoughts on first-party data model

When Viafoura asked its clients what their No. 1 priority is for 2021 and 2022, the almost universal response is to turn their unknown audiences into known audiences. Viafoura COO Mark Zohar shared this and more in an INMA members-only Webinar about building first-party data.

13 October 2021

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Subscription marketing: 3 ways to build the engine to drive new acquisition

By identifying the audience segment upon arrival, defining the goal by segment for the next user interaction, and delivering the segmented user experience (UX) that guides the audience toward the goal, media organisations will navigate customers through a journey to maximum monetisation.

06 October 2021

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Customer-first approach in product, content are key to digital engagement

Being customer-obsessed can help publishers develop the right content and product efforts — e-mails, newsletters, niche and local content — to support engagement. Leaders at The Wall Street Journal, Lee Enterprises, Ringier Group, and The Indian Express shared their strategies during the Digital Reader Engagement Master Class in September.

28 September 2021

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How publishers can successfully rebundle the news

Rebundling the physical newspaper for a digital world can be done, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Research from Twipe, as well as a look at Aftenposten frequency of visits and share of sessions, bring key audience insights.

21 September 2021

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Is the mobile Web or an app right for your media company?

How do users interact with news media brands in mobile and apps? An INMA Product Initiative Meet-up delves into this topic, asking one big question: Is an app right for your news media company?

15 September 2021

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Media subscription teams could learn a lot from online dating

Media companies tend to get caught up in sales jargon, but it is helpful — and perhaps ultimately more successful — to think of subscription management in terms of personal relationships.

13 September 2021

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Prensa Libre focuses on 3 short-term challenges as it grows digital subscriptions

As part of the Facebook Latin America Reader Revenue Accelerator Programme, Prensa Libre adopted an experimental mindset as it launched its digital subscription platform and brought together a multi-disciplinary team.

12 September 2021

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Expressen’s call-to-action button increases digital traffic, conversions

When the Expressen team joined the Facebook Accelerator programme, it was already accustomed to following and trusting data for its big decisions. That trust led to the magic of its call-to-action button.

06 September 2021

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Map out an effective subscriber re-engagement strategy with these 3 actions

Media companies must learn how to keep their new audience members interested and paying as the pandemic slowly settles. Here are three ways to do just that.

24 August 2021

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Somedia learns the value of frequently testing its push notification strategy

Working with the Facebook Accelerator Programme, Somedia’s experimentation with push notifications led to 30% more users clicking, 50% more sessions, 25% of former active users re-engaged, and a four- to five-times lift in newsletter subscriptions.

23 August 2021

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MediaNews Group’s e-mail newsletters align process and purpose

MediaNews Group relied upon deliberate cross-company product prioritisation, collaboration, and execution to create its successful newsletter initiative.

22 August 2021

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Segmented approach to digital audience management maximises monetisation potential

It is important to design the customer journey by creating a segmented approach to achieving a given goal, whether that is increased engagement, registration, conversion, or retention.

17 August 2021

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NZME drives digital access amongst print subscribers while engaging print readership

A key part of NZME’s strategy was to retain print subscribers by getting them to activate their digital subscriptions.

09 August 2021

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Diar's “coopetition” model increases subscriptions for Aller and Amedia

Diar has created a new model of collaboration between news companies — called coopetition — to leverage first-party data and boost revenue.

08 August 2021

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New York Times uses packaging to appeal to professional readers in B2B strategy

During the pandemic, demand for information was at an all-time high. Shaping product offerings for the B2B market became an important part of The New York Times’ subscription strategy.

02 August 2021

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7 best practices for media reflect industry innovation, transformation

News publishers need to understand what their audience is reading and capture data across all aspects of their organisations.

13 July 2021

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Insider campaign targets, wins back former subscribers

Insider traditionally focused on new subscribers but found success with a campaign to attract churned readers.

28 June 2021

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Mackay Daily Mercury grows with digital My Town series

The My Town series is driven by a passion for connecting people through storytelling.

24 June 2021

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Večernji list’s fresh new Sunday print edition resonates with readers

Four sections — politics and society, the world, culture and sport, and great life interviews with strong personalities — all make the new Sunday a can’t-miss piece of reading.

21 June 2021

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Financial Times changed its value proposition for B2B subscriptions

By adjusting its strategy, Financial Times grew from a subscriber base of 250,000 to its current numbers, where 625,000 people have access to FT paid for by their organisation.

14 June 2021

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Editorial and product teams must work together to acquire, retain subscribers

News teams that drive content have the closest relationship with subscribers and the biggest impact on their day-to-day experience. Their partnership with product teams is crucial to reader revenue models.

07 June 2021

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Strong foundations, habit formation create basis of subscriber retention strategy

Building habits and encouraging content consumption ultimately lead to higher retention rates. The four pillars of an effective retention strategy are: investing in strong foundations, forming subscriber habits, managing the reader lifestyle, and optimising acquisition for a higher lifetime value.

10 May 2021

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4 news media companies share subscriber engagement, retention experiments

McClatchy, News UK, South China Morning Post, and The Financial Times stepped up their work on better engaging and retaining subscribers during 2020. Here are their stories.

10 May 2021

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Preventative retention targets subscribers before they become “sleepers”

Building habit in readers before they become subscribers may prevent churn. Ruby Allen, digital retention manager at Gannett, takes a deep dive into current research on preventative retention and how news media companies should be approaching it.

09 May 2021

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3 news companies share how they organise for retention

Dagens Nyheter, Mediahuis, and Nine share their subscriber acquisition strategies in light of the COVID bump of 2020.

09 May 2021

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Do you know when new subscribers cross the “Retention Point?”

INMA Researcher-in-Residence Greg Piechota shares what news media can learn from audience data about a subscriber’s “Retention Point.”

04 May 2021

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WSJ cuts through the clutter with Read Yourself Better marketing campaign

The Wall Street Journal’s Read Yourself Better campaign encouraged readers to rise above the noise on social media to find trustworthy information.

22 March 2021

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4-step process helps news publishers analyse subscriber churn

News media companies can use a simple and practical method for effectively analysing subscriber churn.

25 January 2021

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Online conversations are key in retaining digital subscribers

Media companies can use online conversation tools to keep new digital subscribers engaged with their content.

19 January 2021

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SCMP shares best practices for building user loyalty using AI

South China Morning Post, together with 18 other media companies, the London School of Economics, and Google News Initiative, developed an AI loyalty playbook. Here is what the group learned about what churn and retention mean in the context of a media publisher employing best practices for user loyalty.

11 January 2021

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Revamped lifestyle content in Sydney Morning Herald, The Age keeps subscribers engaged

Lifestyle coverage in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age used to “fill gaps,” but now its attracting readers and encouraging them to stick around.

08 December 2020

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Spokesman-Review increases subscriptions, decreases churn with better communication

The Spokesman-Review’s digital churn rate has dropped from 49.19% in 2018 to 32.62% in 2019 and is trending even lower for 2020. Here’s a look at the e-mail programme that helped with that and the testing that’s bringing in new subscribers.

07 October 2020

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Researcher shares key considerations for acquisition, retention strategies

Patrick Appel of Piano Research shares key things publishers should think about when planning acquisition and retention strategies.

17 September 2020

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Publishers must focus on retention and acquisition for long-term success

Patrick Appel of Piano says publishers should not focus on acquisition at the expense of retention if they want to build a sustainable, long-term revenue strategy.

10 September 2020

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What is the value of knowing a reader?

Deciding what resources to invest in moving anonymous users to known users depends on the lifetime value of a subscriber, the amount of digital advertising revenue at risk, and the incremental lift in subscriptions from knowing the reader relative to an unknown user.

31 August 2020

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Funke Media Group uses topic modelling to plan content

Funke Media Group's analytical methodology allows the media company to find out what topics are of most interest to readers.

16 August 2020

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How to reduce digital subscriber churn by addressing payment failures

If one-third of digital subscribers lost to news companies did not want to cancel, why are they? Here are the main reasons and five ways to stop passive cancellations from happening.

09 July 2020

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Media companies tout product features over content as subscription benefit

Research shows product features — apps, premium newsletters, e-replicas of print editions, access to archives — are most frequently listed by news media companies as they market to potential digital subscribers.

06 July 2020

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3 strategies to end your digital subscription plateau

Recent case study examples show extending promotional terms, increasing the amount of premium content, and reducing friction during the checkout process are a few ways media companies can break through and advance their digital subscription goals.

01 July 2020

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What news media can learn about audience retention from Netflix

The video streaming provider Netflix retains 65% of its subscribers after one year while news media companies have a median retention rate of 25%. INMA Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota shares what publishers can learn about free trials and monthly payment plans from video streaming customer data.

01 July 2020

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Everything you wanted to know about retention but were afraid to ask

Research shows a subscriber’s experience during the first 100 days are key to forming a habit and retaining the subscription. INMA Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota shares onboarding lessons from The Wall Street Journal, as well as video-streaming lessons from Netflix and what AI can teach us about churn behaviours.

29 June 2020

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Clarín, Die Zeit share building blocks of reader loyalty clubs

News publishers across the world are focused on loyalty, with some finding success with structured reward programmes for their readers. Two media companies share their best practices for reader loyalty programmes.

17 June 2020

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Trial subscriptions drove the pandemic surge

INMA Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota shares analysis of 284 news sites showing cancellation rates are lower for monthly subscribers who signed up during the pandemic.

16 June 2020

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Trial subscription wins, loyalty club shifts amid the pandemic

Subscribers who converted during the pandemic are churning less than usual, quite likely because of the engaging news cycle. Another change during the crisis is a creativity of loyalty club programmes.

15 June 2020

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5 best practices for retaining audiences post-pandemic

From a close look at the onboarding process to proactively dealing with cancellations, there are many ways news media companies can work to retain those readers gained during the COVID bump.

07 May 2020

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Research shows the best ways to keep new subscribers post-crisis

Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota shares best practices from non-news subscription companies and three ways to keep it fresh with new subscribers.

21 April 2020

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Research shows best practices in retention while COVID bump peaks again in U.S.

Research shows news media companies in the United States will likely show better digital subscription numbers in April than March. Also: Retention lessons from non-media companies, a reminder that future readers are important, and how infographics are winning the COVID content battle for eyeballs.

20 April 2020

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Schibsted focuses on retention, value proposition for loyal subscribers

Schibsted launched several initiatives to incentivise its most loyal subscribers to reduce future churn. Here are the details.

02 March 2020

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Amedia reduces churn with focus on payment, win-back, onboarding processes

Amedia focused on five key areas to reduce churn in late 2019, saving approximately 10% of its total subscription sales year-over-year with its cross-functional task force, jokingly called “The Churnminators.”

01 March 2020

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Chicago Tribune Reaches 100k Digital-Only Subscriber Milestone

The Subscriber Appreciation campaign sought to increase retention through direct communication from the Chicago Tribune Publisher & Editor in Chief Bruce Dold thanking subscribers and reminding them just how much their subscription supports the newspaper In an effort to increase engagement and encourage ...

01 March 2020

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Ready, Set, 70,000! How Expressen Went from 0 to 70,000 Subscribers in a Year

To build a digital subscription service in four months. By studying others’ success and mistakes we were able to set high, almost unattainable goals, and to prioritize among all our ideas to focus on the right efforts to quickly catch up to our competitors and create a source of digital reader revenues.   Make ...

01 March 2020

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Content Mining with Topic-Modeling

When are readers on the page, what do they read? What are they willing to subscribe for? And what do they keep coming back for? We wanted to answer these questions to get to know our readers better, to find out what is important to them and what they need. And to find out what each of us can do to achieve ...

01 March 2020

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How Nikkei improves user retention through consultation with new subscribers

INMA Presentation File

28 February 2020

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Selling subscriptions, minimising churn

INMA Presentation File

28 February 2020

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Best practices in conditioning audiences to subscribe (and fight churn)

INMA Presentation File

28 February 2020

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Rethink your metrics to improve subscription success

Patrick Appel of Piano and Greg Piechota, researcher-in-residence at INMA, provided insight into how to improve subscription success during INMA’s Media Subscription Week 3.0 in New York City on Thursday morning.

27 February 2020

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8 trends help publishers get, keep digital subscribers

Less free content and longer promotional periods are two noteworthy trends in the digital subscription space.

27 January 2020

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How Mittmedia uses machine learning for insights into subscriber churn

Mittmedia learned some surprising things when employees took a deep dive into the company’s data as it relates to user churn. Two team members shared their findings in an INMA Webinar.

22 January 2020

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Using machine learning for subscriber churn insights

INMA Presentation File

22 January 2020

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Using data science to reduce churn, engage readers at Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail’s loyalty and retention team worked with data science and database marketing staff to better understand and act on subscriber behaviours to reduce churn and increase engagement.

19 January 2020

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You lost a subscriber. Now what?

When readers unsubscribe, seek to understand how engaged they were prior to unsubscribing and send personalised offers to encourage re-subscribing to boost future retention rates.

14 January 2020

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Partnership with star basketball player helps Bay Area News Group lift retention, subscriptions

Klay Thompson’s pre-game newspaper reading ritual is the inspiration behind a multi-year campaign that has effectively engaged audiences, boosted Bay Area News Group’s education programming, and given subscriptions and retention a lift.

13 January 2020

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Reducing churn in the first 100 days at Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal engages its subscribers from the moment they become members. Here is a detailed look at how the company, with 2.6 million paid members, has used its onboarding process to reduce churn.

12 January 2020

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What research, case studies indicate about raising digital subscription prices

The relationship between digital engagement, longevity, and price increases were the focus of an INMA Readers First meet-up, featuring case studies from Dennik N, Piano, and Mather Economics.

09 January 2020

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Aftenposten Wine Club increases subscriber revenue, decreases churn

Aftenposten reuses written content to increase average revenue per user for loyal subscribers interested in wine without using any additional market spend.

21 October 2019

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Stavanger Aftenblad’s comment campaign goes viral in effort to reduce churn

Stavanger Aftenblad’s comment campaign was designed to get subscribers to take advantage of a subscriber benefit they may have overlooked, thereby reducing churn.

07 October 2019

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What if news media were a game, with fans instead of subscribers?

Kent Schacht of the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), Satwant Singh of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Matthijs van de Peppel at NRC Media discuss their best membership practices at the INMA Reader Revenue Symposium.

25 September 2019

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Welcome to the relationship economy

INMA Presentation File

25 September 2019

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How we made it easy to quit, but tempting to stay

INMA Presentation File

24 September 2019

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Globe and Mail deconstructs its onboarding experience

In the first 30 days of onboarding new subscribers, The Globe sends clear communication to reduce churn and begin fostering a long-term relationship. Its five communication steps cover confirming account information, creating a successful start, nurturing behaviour, building a habit, and encouraging monthly engagement.

15 September 2019

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Mediahuis shares lessons from reader activation efforts

Understanding how often and in what manner readers engage with digital subscriptions helps Mediahuis reduce churn. The company’s goal: to see 65% of its digital subscribers engaging in its content each day.

10 September 2019

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Research: Thanking customers yields a powerful ROI

Research by Torstar shows thanking customers reducing audience churn, especially with a direct mail outreach.

20 August 2019

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Globe and Mail creates its own paywall strategy model for retention

By creating its own paywall model, The Globe and Mail can choose paywall articles for maximum reader subscription and retention.

15 August 2019

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Patching holes in paywalls, promoting journalism, calculating churn

INMA Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota shares data, case studies, and opinion on paywall security, promoting journalism as a service instead of content access, monetising podcasts, and tracking churn.

22 July 2019

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Schibsted reduces churn by helping readers visualise a subscription’s value proposition

Schibsted has implemented a new, four-part, anti-churn solution, which staff can monitor through a live anti-churn tracking dashboard. Here is a detailed look at the plan and how it’s going three months in.

01 July 2019

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Avoiding churn in the early subscription stage

In the early stages of a user purchasing a digital subscription, it is essential to demonstrate the product’s value.

12 June 2019

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How Globe and Mail turned reader attention into reader retention

The Globe and Mail Member Benefits programme offers benefits like experiences, online business tools, and E-books/guides that keep readers interested and engaged once they subscribe.

13 May 2019

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Changing newsroom culture to build stronger relationships, drive down churn

INMA Presentation File

20 March 2019

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8 opportunities for subscriber retention

Keep churn to a minimum by focusing on onboarding, reducing customer effort, and telling a compelling story.

12 March 2019

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NWZ reduces churn by strengthening subscriber relationships

During 2018, Germany’s NWZ heavily nurtured its subscriber relationships with a subscriber benefit programme, events, a more robust app, and a revamped CRM programme — all of which has already resulted in modest churn reduction.

11 March 2019

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Research: Attracting, keeping digital subscribers requires different content

Detailed content analyses reveal different kinds of content and content pathways result in conversion of audiences vs. keeping digital subscribers. News publishers should put resources toward all these pathways.

05 March 2019

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Schibsted tests onboarding processes to increase subscription value

In 2018, Schibsted tested several ideas for increasing retention and engagement, many of which were successful. Here is an in-depth look at three of them.

04 March 2019

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Kristeligt Dagblad increases digital engagement 95%

Kristeligt Dagblad launched a successful campaign and revamped its online content to motivate print readers to “go digital” — thus increasing digital product use by 95% and reducing churn by 27%.

28 January 2019

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USA Today Network finds quick success with subscriber engagement, retention programme

Auto bill pay enrollment has increased 22% under USA Today Network’s Voice of the Customer subscriber engagement programme. This and other positive findings are the result of the news media company’s customer- and data-driven initiatives toward subscriber retention.

14 January 2019

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INMA releases report on nurturing value for digital subscribers

Nurturing value for digital subscribers to regain a growth path is the focus of the new INMA report, written by INMA Researcher-In-Residence Grzegorz Piechota and part of the association’s Readers First Initiative.

20 December 2018

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How Wall Street Journal uses a data-led, member-first metric to reduce churn

To reduce churn, The Wall Street Journal team is focusing specifically on who is at risk, what actions have a positive effect, and where communication can be improved.

17 December 2018

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4 steps for implementing data in the subscription process

Product development, sales optimisation, minimising friction, and retaining customers are the core of a subscription business. Strategic data usage within each area can propel revenue.

10 December 2018

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New INMA report delves into subscriber retention, consumer engagement

Including case studies from Financial Times, Times Newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, Aftenposten, and The New York Times, INMA’s latest strategic report continues its leadership role on the subject of digital subscriptions.

20 November 2018

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Globe and Mail changes investment product suite, strategically retains audience

When the Globe and Mail retooled its investment platform, the media company sought to understand its customers, remained available to answer questions, and accepted that some people would leave the platform. The results: Low attrition and CDN$2 million annual savings.

12 November 2018

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Times, Star Tribune, AJC share effective retention practices

Three news media companies share strategies for improving retention and reducing churn. Louis Deering, senior digital marketing manager for Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota, talked about the "lifetime value" of customers — which was a common thread connecting all three companies' strategies.

09 November 2018

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