Many publishers -- especially news organizations -- have prioritized subscription revenue to help offset declines in other sources of
revenue, such as advertising and live events. In developing a retention strategy for subscribers, publishers should check out the latest report from consulting firm Mather Economics
The firm has identified ways to strengthen retention
strategies, which are an important part of revenue growth as the costs of converting new subscribers rises with more media owners competing for share of consumer wallet. With so much free content on
the internet, many U.S. consumers don't pay for news
The retention strategy
varies by fours types of subscribers, with the most loyal readers showing an interest in a specific kind of content or their local community. Less committed readers feel passionate about the cause of
journalism, but are harder to retain. The most cost-conscious consumers are fickle and generally want to keep introductory prices.
To retain subscribers who have demonstrated
an interest in a particular topic or premium content, Mather recommends campaigns that highlight those aspects of a publication. For example, a publisher can send an "in case you missed it" email to
highlight stories about a topic that a subscriber hasn't read, despite showing a prior interest in that topic.
The most loyal of these subscribers are those who responded to
an email link or hit a "subscribe" button. Readers who subscribed because they reached a meter limit, such as two articles every 30 days, or paid for a subscription to read a premium article, tend to
be more difficult to retain as time goes on.
Readers who are interested in local news make up 50% of digital subscribers and tend to be most loyal. They will sign up for
annual subscriptions after converting from metered content or because they have a print subscription.
Renewal campaigns that highlight local journalism and community events
resonate with this audience. While NFL and high school sports content is effective with initial conversions, more loyal subscribers tend to gravitate toward business, opinion and arts coverage,
according to Mather's research.
The firm describes "contributors" as the 10% to 15% of readers who will gladly pay for a subscription because they support journalism, though
their reading habits indicate they don't engage with a news publisher's digital content. These readers respond to messaging about the mission of a newspaper, as demonstrated in the value of
investigative journalism. They also may donate additional funds to support the cause, especially when those contributions are recognized.
Finally, about 10% of subscribers are
cost-conscious and may seek to prolong an introductory offer or call to complain about price changes. They're most likely to respond to offers that reflect the last price they paid, Mather
Each of these strategies requires a data-driven approach that respects consumer privacy while also tracking reading habits to help classify readers into these broad
categories. From there, circulation managers can hone their renewal offers to improve retention.