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Testing subscription messages and media

An in-depth, quantitative study of messages, mediums, images, and subscription types demonstrates low ROI for Facebook ad spend and glimmers of promise in email subscription appeals.

This series of experiments tested combinations of messages, images, subscription type and channels to determine conversion and ROI for news organizations ranging from a small regional magazine to a large local newspaper. The study showed the impact of Facebook ad spending and email subscription campaigns for local news organizations.

The results confirm what individual organizations have seen perform and fail in their campaigns:

  • “On Facebook, logos reduce click-through on subscription appeals relative to other images, such as journalists doing their work.
  • When soliciting subscriptions via email, messages emphasizing what you’d lose without news frequently result in lower click-through rates compared to other strategies, such as telling people what they’d gain from a subscription or just giving them details about the subscription.
  • Ads for free newsletter subscriptions garner more clicks than do ads for paid print/digital access.
  • For the messages and images tested here, there is little evidence that Facebook ads alone yield an acceptable return on investment.”

Overall, the findings suggest that ad-based subscription campaigns on Facebook can be tweaked to perform better, though they alone won’t cut it. Building your email list and using compelling email acquisition campaigns can be highly effective.