New Ideas About Subscriptions Emerge at DMNA18

Last week, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), hosted their second Digital Media North America conference in New York, bringing together publishers from across the country and around the world to discuss digital subscription models and what can be done to help return revenue to the news media industry online.
Through discussions of fake news, the duopoly, paywalls and digital content options, attendees explored all aspects of the online news landscape and what it takes to get readers and viewers to not only trust digital news, but be willing to pay for it. We’ve rounded up the key discussions from the meeting to help you begin your own exploration of what online business model may be right for you.

To get people to subscribe, make it easy for them to cancel a subscription.

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you make it easy for people to end their relationship with you, you’re also going to end up making it easier for them to begin a relationship, according to membership expert Jocelyn Cripps. According to Cripps, if someone looks at your website and they see there’s no easy way to cancel, they may not subscribe to begin with. If people have to call you or reach out in some way to cancel, you may end up trapping some folks into long-term subscriptions, creating a negative view of your company with those subscribers. Even if they like your content, they may not recommend you to their friends or colleagues because they have a bone to pick with you. On the other hand, if you make it easy to cancel, chances are it will also be easy to subscribe, and that frictionless experience makes it more likely that a reader will give you a chance.

Forget about revenue.

When talking about how to get readers to pay, forgetting about revenue sounds crazy, but whether they pay to subscribe or not, your readers offer value to your business. Some of them will pay a subscription fee, but they can also bring value by viewing and clicking on your digital ads; sharing your articles on social media and thus creating brand awareness among a new audience; advertising with you and sharing your brand with their customers; and sharing their data with you to help you in your own advertising and outreach efforts, among other things.

Although you may always want to go for the subscription, it pays to get to know your audience and know what they’re willing to do to help you. Not every reader will directly bring in revenue for you, but if you put in the effort to understand them, you’ll find that most readers offer something just as valuable.

Don’t ignore print!

At The New York Times, print is still king. That’s not to say they’re ignoring digital — they currently have 2.8 million digital subscribers — but they’re not ignoring print, either. According to Hannah Yang, the senior vice president of subscription acquisition and media management at the Times, print is a big part of the Times’ growing revenue.

How is that possible in 2018? The Times is offering unique print products that people want and using their digital product to advertise their print offerings. If that sounds backwards to you, you’re not alone, but the company is proving that people are willing to pay for print if you give them something special to get them there. For The New York Times, that means offering print-only sections available exclusively to subscribers, such as their monthly Kids section. They’ve also revved up the content in their Magazine, producing not only stories that are captivating and shareable, but that are visually appealing, driving people to want to see the story in its original format.

While the Times is in a unique position as a globally-recognized brand, their lessons are still applicable to local and regional publishers. As was discussed at the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress a few weeks back, not all of your print content needs to go online, so you can drive people to your paper by offering unique coverage in the print edition. If readers know that they can only get their local minor league baseball coverage in print, for example, those readers will turn to print to keep up. If you only offer special sections in print, or offer them first in print and delay the online posting, you’re going to drive readers who want that content to subscribe in print, whether they are print loyalists or brand new to the ink-stained page.

Don’t forget to work on keeping subscribers, not just adding them.

It costs significantly less to keep a subscriber than it does to onboard a new , said James Hammersley of Good Growth, so it makes economic sense to focus on keeping your current subscribers. But it’s also good business because engaged, active readers prevent churn. That means that if you put effort into keeping your current subscribers happy, you won’t have to onboard as many new ones just to remain financially stable. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on gaining quality subscribers — those who will be consistently active on your site and vocal on social media about the value you bring — rather than on replacing subscribers who are leaving.

A happy subscriber, after all, is going to keep subscribing. If you prove your value to a paying subscriber, they will continue to be valuable to you.
For more from #DMNA18, you can check out the hashtag on Twitter.


New episode of News Take: Free Press Focus: How Do We Ensure Protections for the Press After Shocking Police Raid? - Watch now