Subscription Sign-Up Pages

How to Design the Best Subscription Sign-Up Pages

The New York Times reached a major milestone earlier this month, when the company announced it had hit 4.3 million paid subscribers. Generating that sort of enthusiasm for a digital news product doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of a highly crafted revenue generation strategy with subscription sign-up pages that drive reader conversions.

Subscription sign-up pages are one of the best tools that digital publishers have for encouraging readers to take the plunge and become paying subscribers. Subscription sign-up pages also provide publishers with an opportunity to influence the way readers perceive their publications and the value that they provide to the community at large.

With so much on the line, digital publishers can’t afford to mess up this up.

The Best Subscription Sign-Up Pages

The best subscription sign-up pages are designed with careful attention to language and the placement of links or buttons. They utilize clean layouts and user-friendly designs, which makes it easier for readers to learn about which subscription packages are available to purchase.

Nothing ruins a subscription sign-up page like a cumbersome registration and payment process. That’s why we recommend that publishers utilize seamless payment solutions that minimize the number of clicks it takes to sign-up for auto-payments or recurring billing.

For the best chance of converting casual readers into paying subscribers, we recommend that publishers utilize these best practices.

Best Practices When Designing Subscription Sign-Up Pages

1. Create a sense of urgency
The best subscription sign-up pages do more than just educate readers about which subscription packages are available. They actually convert readers into subscribers. How do they do that? One way is by creating a sense of urgency.

When designing subscription sign-up pages, we recommend utilizing calls-to-action that create a sense of urgency and make readers want to subscribe right away.

WSJ Subscription Sign-Up Pages

The Wall Street Journal offers a great example of what this looks like in the real world. The newspaper’s subscription page frequently includes special offers or limited-time discounts. For example, in early February, the publisher was promoting a Presidents’ Day Sale with subscriptions that started at $1 for two months. These sorts of limited-time deals create a sense of urgency that makes readers feel like they might be missing out on a deal if they don’t subscribe right away.

2. Highlight the best deals
The best subscription sign-up pages give readers more than one package to choose from. For example, The New York Times gives readers the option to choose from Basic subscriptions, All Access subscriptions, or All Access + Print subscriptions. Different readers have different needs, so it makes sense to offer multiple pricing options here.

New York Times Subscription Sign-Up Pages

What’s even more interesting, from a best practices perspective, is the way The New York Times lays out its subscription sign-up pages. The publisher uses a special header that says “Reader Favorite” to flag its most popular subscription package, the Basic Subscription.

Which specific package a publisher chooses to highlight as the best offer will vary depending on reader demographics and a number of other outside factors. It’s important to note that the best deal isn’t always the one that costs the least. Highlighting any offer, and including a brief description of why that offer is the most popular among subscribers, is a sure-fire way to succeed in increasing reader conversions.

3. Include a feature comparison
As a best practice, subscription sign-up pages should always been designed with clean layouts and clear calls-to-action. But whenever possible, they should also include comparison tables that make it easy for readers to understand the difference between similar subscription packages.

Washington Post Subscription Sign-Up Pages

The Washington Post does a great job of this on its subscription page. The title and price for each subscription package is clearly laid out, and readers can quickly see bullet points that highlight the best parts of each package. Below the comparison table are links to subscription packages that are less frequently selected by readers, like gift subscriptions, enterprise solutions, and the academic rate.

4. Use exit pop-ups
If you don’t already use exit pop-ups on your website, then you might not be familiar with what these are. Exit pop-ups are messages that “pop up” on the visitor’s screen before they navigate away from a website. So, when a visitor’s mouse scrolls over to the back tab on the browser screen, or when the visitor is about to close the tab, the exit pop-up appears on top of the original webpage with an offer enticing the visitor to stick around.

Washington Post Subscription Sign-Up Pages

The Washington Post is one of a number of newspaper publishers using exit pop-ups to improve conversions on its subscription sign-up pages. Visitors who are about to leave the website are presented with an offer to subscribe for just $1. The pop-up uses large, bold text and gets its message across in as few words as possible. The design is hard to miss, which is exactly what a publisher is going for in this scenario.

If you’d like to learn even more about how to optimize your subscription sign-up pages using the best practices for digital publishers, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

Photographer images

How Top Publishers Use Images to Drive Engagement

One of the first lessons that journalism students receive about newspaper design has to do with the importance of original images. Photographs and illustrations break up large chunks of text and encourage people to keep reading, not just on the pages of print newspapers, but on digital screens, as well.

Of course, captivating images do more than just break up blocks of text. They also help readers remember stories—which keeps them coming back for more. On average, readers remember about 20% of what they see in a text-based article. However, they remember 80% of the information in an image.

According to research conducted by 3M, content with visuals gets 94% more views, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. That means reporters can paint pictures for their readers much more quickly when they have images or infographics displayed next to their articles, and readers are more likely to remember the content of their articles, as well.

Need more proof of the value that original images bring to local publications? How about this statistic: According to an analysis by Chartbeat, most readers look at just 60% of any given web page or article, but they look at 100% of the visuals on a page. That’s one of the reasons why viral publishers like Buzzfeed go so heavy with the images, and why infographics have become commonplace alongside fact-heavy stories on the web.

The challenge for local publishers often comes with illustrating stories that don’t clearly lend themselves to visuals. For example, how do you illustrate a story about a car accident or a drunk driving arrest? What about an op-ed piece or a personal column?

Let’s look at some of the ways local publishers get access to the types of high quality images that drive engagement on their websites.

  1. In-house photographers – Following in the footsteps of traditional media companies, some local publishers are hiring in-house photographers on a full time basis. Although it can be expensive to employ a photographer full time, there is significant value. With the right organizational structure, a single photographer can capture all the images a local publisher needs, almost eliminating the need for stock photography. Additionally, publishers can sell their own images to readers, creating another source of ancillary revenue.
  2. Freelance photographers – Top local publishers have stables of freelance photographers they call upon to capture local events. When publishers hire freelance photographers, they pay only for the images they decide to use. This can often be cheaper than paying for a full time in-house photographer. The downside is that quality control can be challenging when working with freelancers, and there is always the possibility that no photographers will be available to cover an important event.
  3. Reader contributions – From a financial perspective, nothing is better than free. Local publishers who have developed solid relationships within their communities can solicit candid images from their readers to publish in exchange for photo credits. The challenge for local publishers using this approach is two-fold. First, the images captured by readers aren’t typically as high quality as those taken by professional photographers. Second, publishers sometimes have to work hard to find photographs of recent events when they go this route. Many publishers will use social media to ask whether any followers took photos of specific events, and then reach out personally to readers who say they captured images with their smartphone cameras.
  4. Stock photos – Stock photos are the least desirable option in this category, but there are times when stock photos are necessary. The downside of using stock photos on a local news website is that they can appear generic, and as a result, readers might be less engaged. The best stock photography can also be expensive. However, there are times when a particular topic just doesn’t lend itself to original photographs, and in those times, a stock photo is still preferable to having no photo at all.
  5. Illustrations – Photographs often don’t make sense alongside personal columns and editorials. In these cases, local publishers should still use images to drive engagement. Instead of photographs, publishers should consider illustrations. Small publishers can hire freelance graphic artists to create original illustrations, or they can purchase illustrations from on-demand marketplaces like Fiverr.com.

In addition to improving web design and increasing the likelihood that readers will make it to the end of articles, high-resolution photographs also make it more likely that content will get shared across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you’d like to learn more about the best web design strategies for local publishers, we’d love to chat.