Why The Telegraph´s Subscription Strategy Success is Written in the STARS
Overview of this campaign
When used properly, metrics are powerful tools for helping editorial staff make the decisions that will ultimately help The Telegraph achieve its target of one million paying subscribers from a pool of 10 million registered users by the end of 2023.
When not used properly, bad metrics lead to bad decisions.
For the first year or so following The Telegraph’s pivot to subscriptions the metric used most in the newsroom was subscriber conversion. And while acquiring new paying customers was obviously important to the business, focusing efforts on pushing people through the door but not checking to see if there was a hole on the other side could be seen as inefficient. Every editor in the newsroom could rattle off their top 10 converting articles from the past 24 hours but few were as aware of their desk’s subscriber retention levels or churn rate.
STARS was designed not just to inform the newsroom, then, but also alter its mindset and improve its understanding of a subscription business. The result of a collaboration between the Telegraph’s Director of Newsroom Innovation and its Insight & Analytics department, this bespoke super-metric is derived from three feeder metrics which identify and reward content that not just converts new subscribers (Acquisition) but also helps keep them subscribed (Retention) and resonates with registrants and new users (Engagement) – potential subscribers of tomorrow.
The special sauce of STARS is a formula which weights the contribution of those feeder metrics based on the relative ARPU of new subscriber and loyal subscribers while also factoring in display advertising revenue but ensures that no one component unfairly dominates the others.
In order to prove truly transformational, though, STARS needed to be simple enough to be grasped by every reporter, while simultaneously offering enough insight to inform strategic decisions by senior editors.
Results for this campaign
STARS has quickly been embraced as the default metric in the newsroom since launching in late 2019. It powers the daily reports and self-service data hubs used by all editorial staff, informs the daily, weekly and monthly targets allocated to all desk editors, and is even measured in real-time by The Telegraph’s proprietary analytics platform, Pulse.
In order to drive that adoption simple but eye-catching data visualisation techniques were used in Google Data Studio reports to emphasise how the three strategy pillars correlate to the overall business strategy. Elsewhere on that versatile self-service web result, custom built by members of our Insight and Analytics team, those with a keener interest could cut the data however they see fit for deeper dives.
We also analysed 18 months-worth of historical data in order to devise scales of what good looks like for different content verticals, our paywalled Politics section operating on a different scale to smaller lifestyle sections like Gardening, for example.
STARS is still very much in its infancy and, as such, we’re still wading through the wealth of insight it has to offer. However already it’s shining a light on the way that different content types serve different purposes.
Pre-STARS, articles with high conversion rates dominated discussion and content strategies. Now there is a new focus on content which encourages existing subscribers to return to our platforms, or which drives enormous amounts of engagement with registrants and anonymous users.
And in these early days there are already signs that subscriber survival rates are moving in the right direction. Arguably its biggest success, though, is getting the entire newsroom thinking about the importance of engagement and retention and how they relate to the content they produce.
Truly The Telegraph’s subscription success is written in the STARS.