Commentary

Subscriber-Centered Publishing

Moderator Steve Dorsey, VP, Innovation and Planning, Statesman Media; Panelists Ted Bongiovanni, Director of Product, Consumer Reports, and Todd Schauman, Director of Marketing And Analytics, Christian Science Monitor

Dorsey: A Gatehouse Media property. Brand new to the family. I can talk tacos, brisket ...

Schauman: We support print product that’s been published for over 100 years. Switched in 2007 to weekly format. Last year we launched our digital-first product. Acquired 11k subscribers. Focusing on acquisition and retention. 

Bongiovanni: We launched basic membership program, building engagement with our membership. Tremendous growth in site traffic. Built a car recall tracker. We’ll tell you upon membership if it has a recall on it. Created new, all-access program. Ask CR, to get personalized product recommendation. 6 million members, half in print, half in digital. 

Dorsey: How do you go about deciding which to pursue?

Bongiovanni: For Ask CR, we Realized people might like to have access. Saw a lot of interest. Our average order value up about 20%.

Dorsey: Repurposing?

Bongiovanni: Yes. We tested with our research panel. Started narrowly and grew into 50 product categories.

Dorsey: Retention, Todd? 12 - 18 months into this now? Renewal time for some people?

Schauman: We have a paid digital product, $11/month; $100/year. Lot of annual subscriptions initially. Saw a small dip. Top of mind is that engagement loop. How to get them back. We do that through both product itself, distributed on site and by email. Try to match up onsite experience with email. Web version much more dynamic. Once you come to site, can choose 30-second read or full article. Engagement focus has reduced churn.

Dorsey: What other product changes, frequency of delivery? What’s coming up?

Schauman: We launche with very static leader. Saw who came back month after month. Everybody gets five Free articles. Trying to more aggressively pursue the one-timers. Once we have an email, it leads to higher engagemenT.

Dorsey: I wish news sites were better at following something like a car recall is great. Future of how that might apply?

Bongiovanni: We’re trying to introduce new folks to CR. Moving from transactional brand into a more experiential space. In partnership with NBC, launched a new show “Consumer 101.” Get people introduced to us. Can lead to a paying relationship with us. More of an affinity. A series of emotional connections that we’re there for all of life’s moments. Having new content forms, TV or newsletters, how can we be more personalized with folks. 

Schauman: Our product needs to be digestible where our customers are when they need it. Email, online, podcast reading of the Daily every day. Audio is 12 minutes long. If somebody is on a train, the easier thing to do is to listen. Some groups read only the email, some just come to the website.

Smith: The line was for many years, CR should own mobile. Having torn sheets out of the magazine and brought them with us. You should be with us in Home Depot. How has this evolved for you guys?

Bongiovanni: We are right there with you. Recently, not only do you need us in aisle 12 at Home Depot, we are always with our members, on subway platform, hear from us on your smart speakers. We know how important Amazon is for the marketplace, we are working on making it easy for us to surface online. CR insights will be right there, as well as Ask CR.

Schauman: When reporters are out there, adding video as a component is easy to do. Customers expect a direct connection with the reporters. In the Amazon, a reporter did video of her experience. Personal connection. 

Bongiovanni: We try to have lots of idea. Boundless. We do look inside and outside. Basic member benefit, if you buy a TV, we can tell you how to set your TV up so it works best for you. Idea became part of our basic membership program. Shared insight for choice and change. Consumer insights panel to tease out and develop new ideas.

Dorsey: Listening to your customers is so great. Not paying lip service is really important. One of the things we do is we have a studio, bring people in, music streaming. Here in Austin, it’s what people look to us to do.

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