This is another article from Piano’s Lead Data Scientist Roman Gavuliak written last year and re-posted here for the edification of our faithful readers. To read all of Roman’s articles please click here.
Everyone knows that almost all news is freely available, even community news that had been previously monopolized by the local paper. That said, there are still a lot of people who are willing to pay for your news. Why? Because you have built your brand and gained the trust of your community based on your judgment in hiring reporters who care about reporting the local news well, covering local teams properly and having an editorial voice that speaks to the range of issues your readers care about.
After initial growth though, digital subscriptions seem to stagnate; our data shows that almost 40% of publications experience flat or declining digital subscriber rates. The question is why and what to do about it? It is important to examine and understand the impediments loyal customers have when converting from print into digital subscribers. Only after understanding and correcting these will subscriptions start to grow and recurring revenue flow.
Piano has broken the user flow from the Internet to news websites into a “conversion funnel” with six parts. At each step in the conversion funnel you need to find and free blockages that users encounter, enabling them to successfully move from one step to the next — so-called micro-conversions — that will turn them into subscribers. Each micro-conversion needs to be monitored via different measures and for each micro-conversion there are different best practices in order to achieve improvements.
First, you need to attract users from the Internet to your site. What good is devoting your budget to ad and marketing campaigns and search-engine-optimization if you do not measure whether your traffic is growing or shrinking? Further, getting them there is only the beginning. You have to keep them engaged; if your site is overrun with advertising and tracking technology that slows their experience down, even the most loyal users may soon decide to give up. Well-known measures, like bounce rates and improvement tactics can help improve retention.
If users are reading up to their free limit of articles per month or just surfing around headlines and summaries, then something needs adjusting. It is essential to get users to consume your paid content. Analyzing the ratio of locked content as well as consumption rates and user loyalty not only helps measure the status of your site, but will offer improvements to your meter settings.
At some point users will consume enough paid content to land on the payment window forcing them into a payment decision. The question then becomes: why are users who are consuming a lot of content on your site dropping out during the payment process? Are your payment windows well designed and easy to read? Do you have a simple subscription process or does it require screen after screen after screen? Are there too many payment options and packages? Analyzing and refining the payment process will help to turn loyal readers into subscribers.
And don’t forget about pricing, one of the most important paid content factors. Are you leaving money on the table charging peanuts while the market has moved on to higher prices? Benchmarking average prices with comparable sites — and carefully A/B testing changes — will help you make the correct decision.
Additionally, have you thought about ways to move users directly from the Internet into becoming subscribers by circumventing the conversion funnel entirely? Has your marketing department had any say? Do you know where to look for off-site subscribers?
Finally, it is all well and good to move people down the funnel and get them to pay 99 cents for the first month, but if they do not renew their subscription at full price after the trial period, you have spent a lot of money acquiring a client for naught. Are your subscribers getting good value for money? After subscribing, are they reading more? Do they come back more than once a day? Are they reading on phones, tablets and computers? Have you given your subscribers enough reasons to continually re-subscribe? Carefully monitoring renewals and taking appropriate action will help you retain your hard-gained business.