From Subscribers to Friends – The Membership Model “Freunde der ZEIT”
2020 Finalist

From Subscribers to Friends – The Membership Model “Freunde der ZEIT”

Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius GmbH & Co.

Hamburg, Germany

Category Readership and Engagement

Overview of this campaign

The program is a joint initiative of the newsroom and the marketing department, and as such it pursues an innovative combination of both economic and journalistic goals.

From an economic point of view, the main objective is to increase subscriber retention and reduce subscriber churn. In this process, a decisive moment for DIE ZEIT are the first four weeks, during which most of its subscribers can test DIE ZEIT for free. During this phase, subscribers get the opportunity to touch base with DIE ZEIT in a live experience and are offered a multitude of additional reasons to take out a paid subscription. In addition to this, the program offers manifold opportunities to connect sponsors and partners to DIE ZEIT’s 350.000 strong subscriber base. Sponsored events and other benefits provided to subscribers are only a few examples of how revenue is generated with partners in the membership model.

The building block of such a comprehensive program is the editorial staff as they must be just as convinced about the viability of the program as the marketing department. DIE ZEIT, has put considerable attention to the immediate and personal interaction with its stubscribers. “Freunde der Zeit” organises regular meetings with readers in order to exchange thoughts on the circumstances under which journalism is created, the standards applied, and the due diligence DIE ZEIT puts to work on an everyday basis. By building a strong relationship with its subscribers, DIE ZEIT aims to strengthen subscribers’ trust in high-quality journalism. Subscribers are invited to every existing offices of DIE ZEIT to discuss with the editorial staff issues of quality journalism and other current matters they care about. In a weekly podcast, DIE ZEIT offers a “behind the scenes”-interview on the most interesting story from the current issue. From those interactions with subscribers taking part in the “Freunde der ZEIT” program, a number of fields for further journalistic research have been identified.

Results for this campaign

DIE ZEIT focuses on several KPIs in order to estimate the effectiveness and optimize the program. DIE ZEIT evaluates the awareness of and the interest in the “Freunde der ZEIT” program. The most important communication channel would be the weekly newsletter that reaches 190.000 subscribers and displays both high opening rates and growing click-through rates. As of January 2020, more than 60.000 subscribers have actively registered online to make use of their benefits within the membership program. Each week, “Freunde der ZEIT” is welcoming 600-900 new registrations.

The impact on churn and conversion rate can be measured by A/B-tests: DIE ZEIT has re-calibrated the onboarding process for new subscribers and the integration of the membership model has shown an uplift in conversions of 1%. In addition to this, an algorithm was developed to identify readers with a high likelihood of churn and presented them with targeted invitations to the newsroom and other benefits. These mails have decreased churn rates within these groups by 1.5% in average.

On a more qualitative level, DIE ZEIT evaluates the satisfaction rates of guests at its more than 110 subscriber only events within the last two years. On average, the events have been rated with 4.4 out of 5 points and have reached an above average net promoter score of 55.
Besides its effect on subscribers, a membership program also offers opportunities to connect sponsors and readers. We have partnered with more than 60 organizations within the first two years. Since our subscribers show a huge interest in cultural activities, festivals companies, film distributors, museums and theatres have proven to be particularly attractive partners.

And within the editorial staff, there has been a cultural shift promoted by the continuous conversation between the editors and their readers. Especially print editors appreciate the new feedback channel and find additional stimuli. They can ask for input via polls, integrate subscribers early in the development process of new formats and invite them to news conferences.


To contact a company representative about this campaign, click here for the INMA Member Directory

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