How healthy is your digital news subscription business?
Optimizing revenue strategy is essential for every publisher. Can new benchmarking deliver digital success?
Now, some months after launch, the Lab’s initial reports are in. ‘Critical publisher benchmarks for digital subscription success’ highlights ten key subscriptions indicators, across six strategic pillars that are critical levers to growth and sustained success.
For each KPI, the paper defines what it is, where it exists within the subscriptions funnel, and why it is important.
The data offers rich pickings for digital publishers undergoing business transformation and to aid those in flux, the Lab has released a Digital Subscriptions Playbook. This paper seeks to accelerate publishers’ digital subscription transformations by answering five key questions, including ‘What is the revenue opportunity?’ and ‘How do I start making progress.’
Essential metrics for growth
FTI (GNI Lab partner) has found while digital subscriptions contribute just 3% of total revenue, the two-year compound annual growth rate (“CAGR”) of digital subscription revenue has exceeded 60%. All other revenue categories were relatively flat or had significant declines
– Digital Subscriptions Playbook
The Playbook also notes inconsistencies across the industry, observing that, ‘While most daily local publishers have developed a digital subscription product, significant gaps exist in organizational commitment to digital subscriptions, leading to sharply inconsistent levels of success.’
“Successful business transformation through a reader-first revenue model requires full organizational commitment to change,” comments Jed Williams, Chief Strategy Officer, Local Media Association, GNI partner.
“This encompasses people (the right skills, mission-based teams, cross-functional collaboration), technology, and process. A structured, disciplined process for organizational change is especially important.”
— Jed Williams
Connecting metrics and KPIs to important steps along the customer journey is key. Similar to the conversion funnel, the customer journey should follow a linear progression from total audience to existing subscribers, with measurable outcomes that facilitate the goal of moving the maximum number of users down the funnel.
Other useful insights cover how publishers offer value to audiences; elements like customer experience, page speed, ad experience, calls to action and confirmation emails should all be operating flawlessly in order to enhance movement down the funnel.
KPIs and benchmarking
On conversion, hybrid models which intersect premium and metered content often work best. “Growing our base of digital subscribers is a top priority for the organization,” said Anna Marie Menezes, The Toronto Star’s VP of customer revenue and lifecycle management.
“We are very encouraged by the success so far with our hybrid model at driving a significant meter stop rate and new digital subscribers. Apart from getting people to subscribe faster (which our data shows), it has also given the newsrooms greater possibilities to understand what kind of journalism converts and resonates with our existing subscribers.”
— Ann Marie Menezes
Other key insights show page speed is among the top metrics to evaluate the strength of user experience, as noted by Shailesh Prakash, chief information officer at The Washington Post, another Lab partner. Faster page speed reduces bounce rates, increases article recirculation, promotes deeper site visits, and improves ad viewability.
A word on data
“They must focus on accessing, organizing and acting upon the metrics that have the highest impact on their digital subscriptions business, ensuring that everyone in the organization knows these metrics, and how each specific role can affect them. KPIs should extend across the entire customer journey, from discovery to engagement, conversion to loyalty and retention.”
“The notion of test-and-iterate is well-established in growth industries, particularly technology, and is a mindset that media must also adopt.”