The internet is now the world’s newsstand and physical newspapers are playing catch up with their online competitors. Digital publications can thrive off a large subscriber base, but the question is: how do you encourage readers to become paid subscribers in the first place?
In an ‘access generation’, where access is perceived to be more valuable than physical commodities, newspapers need to up their game to offer high-value content and experiences behind their access-only paywall. In this article, we explore eight actionable ways you can start winning over your readers and growing your newspaper’s subscriptions.
1. Have a strong brand voice
If you publish regular quality content with a strong brand voice, you’ve done half the work. It’s important to realise that when it comes to newspaper subscriptions, readers subscribe to the newspaper they’re used to reading or that they have chosen for its particular voice, journalistic style and content offering.
For obvious reasons, journalism can look a little different across publications, but that doesn’t matter. Embracing your own specific style of journalism, your voice, your focus is all part of winning over your potential subscribers. A strong brand elevates your business and creates an emotional connection with readers.
2. Invest & prioritise your digital business
If you’re looking to win more newspaper subscribers, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. If your main focus remains your print publication, it goes without saying that your digital offering won’t take off by itself. Nurturing a strong subscriber base takes time, patience, and consistent investment. Centering your digital business within your core business strategy is essential, as is acknowledging that a successful digital offering exists at the intersection of marketing, editorial, and IT. The move to digital subscriptions is a full organisational shift, not a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on, signalling a wholehearted commitment to your digital business. If you’re feeling apprehensive about this move, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Find all the answers to the questions that are worrying you in our eGuide: “The 7 Paywall Questions That Worry CTOs”
3. Get to know your audience, then divide & conquer
Gaining newspaper subscribers isn’t just a lucky shot in the dark, it’s a targeted campaign that succeeds depending on how well you know your audience. First, try to understand who your readers are, which kind of content appeals to them, and what they’re looking for from your digital publication.
You’ll soon realise that there’s no one single formula for gaining subscribers. Because, after all, marketing and conversions are all about tapping into human psychology. This is where ‘dividing and conquering’ comes in. This means personalising subscription journeys that are tailored to different segments of your audience. You can divide your audience according to different demographics, interests, geographical location, and more. Segmentation helps you to effectively hyper-tailor your content and messaging to suit a particular part of your audience, thus enhancing their experience.
4. Get to grips with the data
Audience data should drive your digital business. Data collected through user activity and registration will help you understand what makes your readers tick and therefore what might make them subscribe. You’ll be able to analyse your readers behaviours and interactions across your content, spot trends, and even warning signs as they happen. Plus, with progressive profiling (collecting data on your users gradually over time), you’ll gain an even deeper insight and understanding of your readers.
Once you’ve got that far, you’ll be able to develop your offering and curate your content with more precision, overall making subscribing seem all the more appealing to each reader. In particular, digital publishers can use first-party data to tailor the subscriber experience and drive conversions.
5. Optimise the subscriber experience
Your published content is obviously a substantial part of the subscription package, but it’s not the whole story. Gaining subscribers is also about offering a high-value subscriber experience. This extends beyond content to include visuals, aesthetics, and exclusive access.
You need to ensure that the subscription experience meets (or hopefully exceeds) subscribers’ expectations, thus giving huge value for money. Potential subscribers will be swayed if they feel they’ll be getting their money’s worth and more.
If you’re continuing to offer free access to your content, then the subscription experience is even more important. Subscribing needs to feel like an upgrade or an enhancement, so you’ll need to tempt your casual readership with what they’re missing out on. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than our eGuide to 5 actionable ways to improve digital subscriber experiences.
6. Make it easy to subscribe
Make it as easy as possible to subscribe. Remove all barriers to entry by avoiding clunky payment systems or asking for too much information. The simpler the subscription process, the better. In an age where readers’ time and attention is a commodity, you don’t want to go wasting it or asking too much of them. Simple improvements to your publication’s UX will make a huge difference to the bottom line without too much effort. Why not try implementing some of our recommended best UX practices and see the difference they make?
7. Experiment with your pricing
Getting your subscription model just right is essential for winning more subscribers. Don’t worry, it will take a few adjustments and tweaks to find what works best for you.
It’s not just about setting one fixed price. In fact, there are a lot of different ways that you can structure your pricing. Be open to trying different options such as offering bundles or tiered subscriptions. Both of these are effective strategies for appealing to a wide and diverse readership. Having the right tech stack is essential for giving yourself maximum flexibility and agility. With the right tech infrastructure, you’ll be able to make small tweak to paywalls quickly and optimise flows efficiently, for example.
If you want to become a subscription pricing strategy expert, check out our recent eGuide looking at the Dos and Don’ts of Digital Subscription pricing.
8. Don’t be afraid to rework & redefine what you’re offering
As we mentioned earlier, when it comes to newspaper subscriptions, readers pay to support your journalism and your value proposition. If you’re only just taking the leap into the digital sphere, don’t be afraid to change things up. Be prepared to diversify what you’re offering, build off your original content, and offer new things depending on what your readership responds to.
A digital publication offers unfettered freedom to explore new products and offerings that you may not even have considered before. Think of the New York Times’ Spelling Bee, for example.
Keeping your business agile is key in a constantly shifting and changing digital landscape.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a hard binary between subscription or free-for-all, you can toe the line quite successfully whilst subtly pushing casual readers into becoming subscribed readers.
You win some, you lose some.
Unfortunately gaining newspaper subscribers is not easy. However, with an emphatic focus on your digital product, a strong journalistic output, and an understanding of what underscores a successful subscription funnel, you’re sure to make some serious gains. Whilst you may win some and lose some, it’s fundamental to be continually fine-tuning your digital business so that, eventually, you’ll be on a winning streak.
And if you’re lost for where to begin, our step-by-step guide to help you fast-track your way to a strong, reliable subscriber base: Blueprint for Building a Highly Predictable Subscription Revenue Stream is a great starting point.