Apple Inc.'s introduction of new privacy restrictions this week is giving publishers another taste of how limitations on online audience tracking can affect the value of their advertising inventories.
It's also a chance to look at strategies for retaining subscribers amid the growing dependence on reader revenue.
With that in mind, I recommend reading the results of a publisher survey by the American Press Institute
nonprofit affiliate of the News Media Alliance that supports research and education for the industry. It found that news publishers value a variety of retention strategies, though many feel they're
not proficient with those efforts.
Publishers ranked on-boarding new subscribers as the most important strategy, with 86% saying they considered it valuable. However, only 53%
described their organizations as proficient at the process of welcoming readers, especially those who have responded to free trials, the most common hook.
is a process of highlighting all the benefits of being a subscriber, and supporting habits to keep them continually engaged. A daily email newsletter that's easy to read on a smartphone is one of the
most common ways to encourage engagement with a website or mobile app.
Some 90% of publishers urge readers to sign up for newsletters, and 78% send a welcome email, API's
study found. Fewer than half of publishers send emails that explain how to use their products or includes personal notes from someone in the newsroom. The finding suggests more publishers should test
some of these methods to see if they help to form the basis for a stronger bond between readers and the people who are creating the product.
subscriber-only benefits was the least popular, with only 62% of publishers seeing it as valuable and 23% feeling proficient at it. The strategy may be underappreciated because it isn't widely used,
The most common subscriber-only benefit is access to exclusive content, which suggests that many publishers have implemented a paywall on their websites.
Sixty-two percent of publishers offer such access to paying readers, which may be moot for websites with strict paywalls.
The second-most popular benefit is offering free or
discounted access to publisher-hosted events, with 46% of respondents saying they use this method. The pandemic spurred a significant shift to online events, but there are signs that in-person events
are due for a comeback as more people get vaccinated and resume their former activities.
Even less popular were meetups between subscribers and staff (31%), a reward program
(27%), discounts on local products and services (27%), free gifts (25%) and access to other news and entertainment at a discount (17%). These strategies are worth testing to gauge their value to
readers and the effects on subscriber retention.