Engaged Reading Digest: the subscriptions edition

Five reads on subscriptions and membership models, to give you some hope about the future of journalism.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I don't care if Monday's blue, Tuesday's gray and Wednesday too. Thursday I don't care about you. It's Friday I'm in love…

…with membership models.

Are they the Cure for journalism's ills? Here's some curated reading about subscriptions, and how to grow them.

I'm sorry for that intro — it's been a long, busy week…

Theory of the week

I'll be honest: I'm not sure I buy the argument made here. It's built on fairly thin evidence. And even if it's correct, it'll only work for a limited subset of very large publications.

But it's still worth a read.

How Paywalls Have Revived The Idea Of The Newspaper Bundle
Thunderbolt: The newspaper needs to be all things to most people in a way that we thought was obsolete during the era of free news.

How Amedia addressed its gender inbalance in subscription

It turns out that if you quote more women, more women read your stories… and thus more women subscribe:

In addition, an analysis of the stories from 19 newspapers over the same 21-month period showed that publications which featured more stories containing women sources had higher readership among women, supporting Amedia’s hypothesis that better gender representation makes business sense.

It's an interesting case study.

Newsletters as subscriber targetting mechanisms

Interesting (and not uncommon) approach of using newsletters as a segmentation tool, but with a data influence that's less frequently seen:

The team creates newsletters based on user data. They segment users according to their engagement patterns, history of payments, propensity to buy or churn, and the type of content they like.
From 170k to 200k subscribers in 2019: How Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading newspapers, did it | What’s New in Publishing | Digital Publishing News
Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading newspapers grew from 170,000 digital subscribers at the end of 2018, to 200,000 nine months later. It’s publisher Jerzy Wójcik said, “Having over 200,000 digital subscriptions is a really huge success of Gazeta Wyborcza – the leader in terms of subscriptions …

Newsletter "oops"

How to completely fail to take adavantage of a major newsletter success:

We finished the 12-week campaign with an average 40% open rate and 7% click-through rate, which were among the highest we’ve ever seen. Without a dedicated subscription offer, it drove three total conversions, which reinforced what we learned with Power on Trial: Every newsletter needs a subscription.
Newsday marries newsletters, audience data to increase subscriptions, engagement
Newsday has been experimenting with newsletters to increase audience engagement and subscription sign-ups. The results are impressive.

The path to memberships

This quote gets to the heart of a detailed look at one publication's journey:

While a move to membership is not about altering the journalistic practices at DoR, it requires a lot of thinking about how we communicate our mission, in order to ensure that our readers and supporters understand the value our work brings into their lives.

It's a useful and compelling story from my friend Catalina who is now their digital editor.

All roads lead to membership: DoR’s journey — Part 1
We’ve read a lot about starting from scratch with a membership model for a media organisation. Or starting up a new product within the wider organisation that has a membership model. But there…

Well, congratulations if you made it to the end. You, my friend, really care about making journalism work. Feel good about that as you go into the weekend… 😉

newsletterssubscriptionsbusiness modelspaywallsuser dataaudience engagement

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.