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Best practices in digital subscription acquisition

This roundup of resources offers practical, step-by-step guidance and case studies for how to beef up your digital subscription business.

The Facebook Journalism Project hosted an expert-led (Tim Griggs, industry vet) crash course on subscription revenue for local news outlets. The Lenfest Institute for Journalism collaborated to offer grants. One of the results is this roundup of insights for generating more consumer revenue with tested techniques.

All of the publicly available content, including the case study on checkouts, is an approachable entry point to designing content that engages readers, email capture that builds lists, offerings that deliver value, and optimizing for revenue. These cases all outline handy tactics for improving conversion rates, and a few of them link together to describe how a news organization might apply them to a multi-step subscription campaign.

First things first: capturing email addresses is key. A case dissecting how The Boston Globe used cliffhangers in a long-form reporting piece about juvenile cancer to generate email leads reveals the engagement possibilities of old reporting forms. At each step in the serial story drops, readers can share their email address to unlock the next chapter, while subscribers could access the whole piece at publication.  This technique honors the reporting work while creating a moment for the Globe to convert already engaged readers into subscribers.

The results were impressive. “Thirty-nine percent of unsubscribed readers shared their email address with the Globe, generating about 15,000 new leads. Of those emails, about 98 percent were legitimate email addresses. And the story helped contribute to 110 new subscription starts.”

With a fresh cohort of emails, an organization then needs to sharpen their email marketing program to encourage conversion. This piece outlines an email strategy guided by simple best practices for list maintenance and email content.

In those emails to new leads, the experts encourage a range of offers and associated opportunities for conversion, that go beyond the usual monthly digital subscription. Targeted refer-a-friend offers and specific discounts for segments of readers can boost engagement and revenue.