5 things we learned in our report on the opportunity with digital subscriptions

As large media companies have more and more success with digital subscriptions, small and medium companies are learning and attempting to tap into the growing opportunity of consumer revenues.

Local Media Association President Nancy Lane has written a white paper examining trends in digital subscriptions and action steps media companies should consider taking to grow in this space.

Here are five things that you can lean in the report:

1. Newsletters are a huge source for converting digital subscribers 

This is the top trend when it comes to driving consumer revenue strategies for the companies we talked to in our report. 

Example: The Seattle Times converts 25x more subscribers from newsletters than from Facebook. In fact, it’s the main reason that they produce newsletters. 

2. Produce content that’s worth paying for (investing heavily in journalism) 

All of the successful companies we featured in this report talk about their investment in journalism. They also know what kinds of content people are willing to pay for and they deliver it. 

Example:  “The number one objective for our marketing team is to convince readers we’re worth paying for,” said Hannah Yang, Senior Vice President, Subscription Acquisition & Media Management, The New York Times. “The one thing that has never changed in my tenure is the quality of our journalism.” 

3. Data-driven strategies are key to success (very sophisticated approach) 

Companies that are winning in the digital subscription space are obsessed with data. 

Example: The Wall Street Journal assigns a propensity score to every visitor. “When someone has a high propensity score, we lock down the site,” said Jon Buckley, Director, Digital Subscriber Acquisition & Media. In order to understand what drives subscriptions, they follow 65 different signals such as visit frequency, number of articles per visit, zip code and device. 

4. Make investments in the right technology (choosing the right R&D partners) 

Sophisticated technology is needed to win in this space. 

Example: The Day worked with LEAP, Blue Venn, Active Campaign, Second Street and Acxiom to build their infrastructure and focus on things such as merchant data, newsletters and contesting.

5. Commit to a hard paywall (readers hit the wall after 2-4 articles) 

The successful companies are stingy when it comes to how many articles a visitor can read before hitting the paywall. It’s two at The Boston Globe, three at The Washington Post and four at The Seattle Times. 

Example: Many of those companies have been reluctant to make any exceptions, including social media. Facebook Instant Articles now has a paywall option. About a dozen newspapers in North America and Europe are participating in an alpha test and early results are promising. 

You can discover dozens of more examples on how companies are making digital subscriptions work for them by downloading our report.