Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The News Reporter of Columbus County, N.C., built a digital-first workflow, established a metered paywall and consolidated its subscription plans. The result was an increase in its circulation and subscription revenue.
Consumer revenueSubscribe to Updates Consumer revenue — that is, making money directly from your audiences — is critical for news enterprises of all types. It comes in many forms — subscriptions and memberships, of course, but also donations, crowdfunding, events, merchandise, e-commerce, and others. While the news industry has a rich history in generating support from audiences (print subscriptions, public media fund drives) in an analog world, the skills, capabilities, technology and other disciplines to excel digitally are a different story altogether.
Big Picture A primer on consumer revenue
Consumer revenue can take many forms, namely: subscriptions, membership and donations. And while these three types of consumer revenue serve unique audience needs/interests, the discipline required to execute each is very similar.
Plan Strategic considerations for consumer revenue
In the grand scheme of consumer revenue, it’s tempting to think of membership and subscription as interchangeable models. This detailed report from The Membership Puzzle Project outlines the ways membership is “fundamentally different” from subscription with a wide range of case studies. Any news organization considering membership should understand these basics.
When, and how, should members be consulted about decisions, and how does that fit with membership as a revenue strategy? The balance of expectations, transparency, communication, and shared ownership can be a delicate one that requires careful tending. Emily Goligoski of The Membership Puzzle Project rounds up advice about building and reinforcing member relationships from an international complement of news organizations who are building the membership playbook.
Pricing is more science than art. This study shares some industry data about common pricing tactics.
This multi-section report unpacks reader motivations to subscribe.
This report from API examines what news organizations can learn from a deeper knowledge of the emotional and behavioral factors that affect people’s subscription decisions.
The three major reasons readers decide to pay for news and the four major benefits they get from doing so.
An international, qualitative survey of why readers pay for news and what they think about various consumer revenue offers.
Learn how to focus on your best customers in building your overall value proposition.
A collection of best practices for talking to readers with practical, downloadable examples.
Whether subscription- or membership-based, are you pursuing the approach for the right reasons?
Do Tactics to help you grow consumer revenue
Subscriber retention efforts can start as soon as a subscription begins, as outlined in this guide to onboarding tactics from API’s Reader Revenue Toolkit. Examples from a range of news organizations are ready for testing and adaptation, from video to thank you notes and email newsletters.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Greeley Tribune in Colorado used a “mini-publisher” team to grow revenue around dining cards that offer customers “buy-one, get-one” deals at local restaurants and breweries.
Newsrooms need relevant metrics that connect their work with the business’s bottom line, which often requires pulling data from various nooks and crannies in the organization. Sharing data regularly, with routines to guide that sharing, makes it clear how editorial decisions can contribute to the financial performance of the overall team. This primer on what to measure and how to socialize those metrics with the newsroom demonstrates tactics for bridging functional roles within a news organization.
Paid acquisition can juice revenue for publishers, the question remains as to predicting ROI on various paid channels. Phillip Smith pulls together a primer on the theory behind these strategies and tactics for a predictable, membership-driving revenue playbook in the first of a series of pieces for The Membership Puzzle Project.
This research from the Lenfest Institute and The Shorenstein Center illustrates best practices in digital subscription, focusing on the finer points of applying funnel discipline and implementing tools like paywalls and pay meters. The result is a playbook full of tactics to adapt, regardless of a news organization’s size or familiarity with reader revenue.
With the revenue strategies of news organizations evolving, so are the structures and demands on the people creating new ways of sustaining news. This report from The American Journalism Project in partnership with Impact Architects and The News Revenue Hub details how a handful are accomplishing their revenue work and rounds up resources for operations and hiring.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Engaging with and fundraising to a digital-first audience doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel or put your content behind a paywall. But you may need to get input from people across different departments and create small cross-departmental teams with different expertise to complete effective fundraising campaigns.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The University of North Carolina and Duke University’s student newsrooms teamed up to create the Rivalry Challenge around the Duke-UNC men’s basketball game earlier this year. There were two big parts to the challenge — a fundraising competition and a joint editorial project in print and online between the two teams of student journalists.
Updates from the News Revenue Hub show that member and donor-driven news organizations are missing money when they set low fundraising goals or restrict their communication with audiences about the necessity and purposes of their fundraising.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Miami Herald in August 2018 created Sports Pass, a sports-only digital subscription plan, allowing sports diehards both in and out of market to subscribe at a lower rate than a full digital subscription.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Sacramento Bee used a SMART-goal setting process to find audiences willing to pay for its work.
Retaining subscribers and members after they join is a complex business. This list of tactics is a quick and concise primer on where to start keeping people on your books, regardless of the sophistication of your marketing operation or engagement technology stack.
Calculating lifetime value of a subscriber is complex, though this spreadsheet makes it significantly simpler to perform that tricky math.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., created cross-disciplinary teams across the company — spanning the newsroom and the sales/marketing side — to launch new products in specific content areas like food, politics and real estate. The initiative resulted in nearly $900,000 in new product revenue and, in the past two years, an increase in digital subscriptions by 250 percent.
This article explores steps the newsroom took to establish the mini-publisher teams and the experiments they’ve run.
These detailed case studies from Digital Content Next and the Lenfest Institute explore the finer points of successful metering and revenue-driving calls to action for Tribune Media, Slate, and The Guardian.
Gwen Vargo from API rounds up examples of well-converting offer pages to demonstrate how their design influences trust and encourages conversion. Design choices at this important stage in the funnel can make or break subscription rates.
This study by the Medill Center at Northwestern University re-centers the importance of local content in encouraging daily news consumption, which the massive data project shows is the most likely predictor of subscription and retention. As simple as it seems, this change represents a dramatic reorientation of the KPI’s for news organizations pivoting from ad-based to reader-supported models.
Reporters can apply a mini-publisher perspective to drive subscription growth, as demonstrated by The Seattle Times as they roll their audience-focused experiments across the newsroom.
The Correspondent reveals how more than a year of relationship building and foundational work led to their successful $2.5 million crowdfunding campaign.
Based on his work transforming news organizations, Tim Griggs distills the essential elements of successful membership-driven news organizations. He adds a simple outline for the all-important gaps-assessment meeting for those just getting started. This outline is a good starting point for understanding the table stakes for membership-driven news organizations.
Examples from major news orgs and regional outlets fill this primer on the different dimensions on designing user flows that convert, gather reader data, and generate revenue.
Engaged, community-motivated journalism satisfies a public-service mission and generates powerful levers for earning audience support.
No single approach, even email marketing, can be the sole source of subscriber growth and consumer revenue. News organizations should connect with prospective subscribers, both on and offline with a diversified strategy. Gwen Vargo unpacks a portfolio of techniques through mini-case studies.
Peter Gray, The Wall Street Journal’s VP of Optimization, reminds publishers and mini-publishers about the simplest things that boost reader revenue. This quick read includes an outline of the WSJ’s iterative, testing process.
Email is key to reaching individual readers and measuring the success of subscription marketing. This primer from API’s Reader Revenue Toolkit covers technical and programmatic approaches to email capture.
End-of-year fundraising campaigns with foundation matches are both an art and a science, as an examination of ProPublica’s strategy reveals. Email, direct asks, and a campaign mindset helped the organization bring in more than one-third of its small dollar revenue during its December campaign.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Dallas Morning News, which has eight major college football programs in its coverage area and just two full-time writers dedicated to them, concentrated on its smallest but most local school and turned it into a digital subscription success story.
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 roundup of resources offers practical, step-by-step guidance and case studies for how to beef up your digital subscription business.
Kunle Campbell shared key points to encourage potential subscribers to finish the checkout process, or at the bare minimum, fork over their email address. This technical and tactical guide comes complete with screenshots outlining UX best-practices from his Facebook Local News Subscription Accelerator session.
This example shows how membership perks can make engagement an opportunity for community and conversion.
This quick case study unpacks how The Star Tribune used middle of the funnel tactics to achieve 30 percent growth in digital subscriptions with Facebook distribution.
This case study outlines how a nonprofit news organization serving Vermont grew its audience, diversified its revenue base, and secured a game-changing financial investment with an entrepreneurial approach.
Helpful guidelines to consider as you compare your subscription offerings to competitors.
Here’s how you can use content marketing to target prospective subscribers off site — in this case, via Facebook.
Among the tips here: Cut page load times, create more/better email newsletter products, close site-access loopholes, and encourage registration based on page depth.
Think through whether membership is right for your enterprise with four clear questions.
How the relationship between recency, frequency and volume helps predict what subscribers will stick with you.
Lessons in membership programs, including the difference between “thick” and “thin” approaches.
The Guardian has transformed from teetering on financial oblivion to generating more revenue from readers than advertising.
A slew of tips on retention, including customer service specialization, value-added products, and re-engagement marketing.
Driving paying readers means optimizing content to create subscribers, something Scandinavian publishers are doing at a world-class rate.