Subscription packages are steadily displacing display advertising as the most important revenue stream among digital publishers. But building a sustainable business from the revenue generated by monthly subscriptions or memberships isn’t easy. It relies on finding a constant stream of new readers and giving those readers a reason to pay for access to your online content.
Here are eight ideas for jumpstarting your own digital subscription program, based on the strategies that successful news publishers are using to fuel their own subscriber growth.
Top 8 Ways to Get More Digital Subscribers
1. Targeted Ads
We know that running house display ads is an effective way for publishers to promote their subscription programs. One way to drive even higher conversion rates with those house ads is by targeting them. Depending on the advertising platform that you use, you can target ads based on the time of day or the traffic source. You can also target ads so readers will see certain marketing messages as they’re about to click away from your website or anytime they hit a paywall.
2. Hosted Events
Publishers like The Dallas Morning News have started hosting VIP events to drive long-term retention of existing subscribers. Events like VIP receptions and workplace meet-and-greets can be given out as premium perks to people who have subscribed to your publication for a certain length of time. If you regularly host larger events, like live concerts or conferences, you can also encourage subscriptions by giving your subscribers early-access to your ticket sales website.
3. Email Campaigns
Your own website can be your most effective email signup tool. Take advantage of everything at your disposal by running house ads for your publication and including sign-up forms where readers can enter their email addresses to subscribe or join your email newsletter lists. Include these email sign up forms on your home page, at the bottom of all articles, and on your social media pages. Once readers have joined your email newsletter lists, you can reach out to them with marketing pitches that encourage them to subscribe.
4. Discounted Subscription Prices
Discounting subscription rates is not always a strategy that digital publishing experts recommend, but it can work in certain situations. The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, found success by running an “Ultra Sale” across all of its marketing channels. The strategy led to thousands of new digital subscriptions. Now it’s up to The Chronicle to retain those subscribers when it comes time to renew their subscription packages at regular rates.
5. Editorial Spotlight Ads
A/B testing can be a useful way to determine which ads are most effective in driving subscription growth. When The Boston Globe conducted its own testing, its publisher found that ads that spotlight exceptional editorial articles drove more subscriber acquisitions than offer-centric ads. For The Boston Globe, editorial spotlight ads have lowered the cost-per-acquisition.
6. Promote Stories that Drive Subscriptions
Analytics tools from Google, Chartbeat, and other software providers can offer insights into which stories—or types of stories—generate the most digital subscriptions. For example, are people more likely to subscribe after reading a story about local sports or breaking news? Once you determine which types of stories generate the most subscriptions, you can run more of those stories and promote that content across your marketing channels.
7. Refine the Infrastructure
Could your existing website infrastructure be causing you to lose subscribers? Readers who are frustrated with outdated login systems will often decline to renew their subscriptions, and subscriber sign-up forms that are too lengthy can lead to higher-than-average drop off rates. By paying attention to the user experience, and working closely with your website developer, you can design forms and login interfaces that subscribers actually enjoy using.
8. Outside Marketing Support
If you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can alone, it might be time to hire an outside marketing agency for support. Marketing companies can put together campaigns designed to boost subscription growth. Whether hiring an outside agency for support makes financial sense for your publication depends on what types of results the agency can achieve and the cost per acquisition.
For more details about how to implement any of the subscription growth strategies we’ve described above, reach out to our team of publishing specialists at Web Publisher PRO.