Reality Check: Why Your Subscription Program May Be Failing

Why Your Subscription Program May Be Failing


  • Creating an effective, profitable subscription program is an ongoing journey.
  • Subscription programs can fail from not building relationships with visitors, hitting unengaged visitors with a paywall message, forgetting to onboard new subscribers and not re-engaging “sleeper” subscribers. 
  • Viafoura can help captivate potential and existing subscribers and work with paywall providers to identify engaged visitors who may be ready to subscribe. 
  • 60% of inactive customers become unengaged within two months of subscribing, stressing the need for an engaging onboarding program.
  • 86% of publishers believe that it’s worthwhile to assess subscriber interests and behaviors. 
  • If your organization’s subscription program isn’t working, you can use Viafoura engagement tools to help captivate potential and existing subscribers.

Setting up a paywall does not guarantee that subscriptions will automatically start increasing. And even if they do, customers can churn at any moment if you don’t have the proper support strategies in place.

Your subscription program is an ongoing journey with various moving parts and people that must all be aligned to become successful.

“[To] rebuild our subscription business, all the elements in the company, from business, tech, the newsroom, will have to work and take this journey together,” explains Adisti Sawitri, managing editor at The Jakarta Post.

If your organization is completely invested in its subscription program and still can’t seem to boost conversion and retention rates, all hope is not lost. 

Taking a few moments to understand why subscriptions tend to fail can help you bolster your audience-building strategy. Read on to find out how you can overcome subscription-related challenges and create a dependable reader revenue stream.

You’re Not Building Strong Relationships With Visitors

Would you pay to support a website or service if you didn’t feel like you got value or had some connection to it?

Odds are, you probably wouldn’t. And the same is true for your digital visitors. 

Taking the time to connect with online audiences can help your organization capture their attention and keep them on your properties instead of on a competitor’s.

“Relationships, whether with people or brands, are up for grabs,” says Gretchen Ramsey, chief strategy officer at Harte Hanks, a global marketing agency. “If you don’t nurture them, they could… rebound into a new, more loving one pretty quickly.”

To win over your audience’s interest and money, your organization will need to connect with people by providing relevant experiences and content based on their behavioral data. You can also encourage visitors to form relationships around your brand with other like-minded people through on-site social spaces.

You’re Hitting Visitors With a Paywall When They Aren’t Engaged

Have your organization’s paywall messages been generating little to no conversions from digital visitors? 

If so, there’s a good chance that your visitors aren’t engaged enough to even think about your brand’s subscription program. 

A strategic way to grow subscriptions without annoying unengaged visitors is to target only the most engaged, active users with a paywall message. That way, only audience members who are active enough to be interested in a subscription will hit the paywall. 

You can also work with an engagement tool provider, like Viafoura, to feed subscription-ready visitors to your paywall. 

Amalie Nash, SVP of local news at USA Today, outlines how “[if] you recognize someone’s behavior, then it’s easier to figure out at what point you put that [paywall] in front of them.” 

Ultimately, an engaged visitor will likely be more receptive to a paywall message than an unengaged one.

You’re Forgetting To Onboard New Subscribers

For organizations that are struggling to retain paying audience members, adding in an onboarding program for new subscribers can significantly reduce churn. 

Without an onboarding program that immediately captivates subscribers, businesses risk turning their active community members into passive “sleepers.” These inactive subscribers do not return to a publisher’s properties and are in danger of churning. 

According to a report by Piano, a subscription management platform, “60% of sleepers first become inactive within the first two months of their subscription – making it incredibly important to use an onboarding program and implement other tactics to drive engagement and habit early in the relationship.”

Help new subscribers build daily habits around your organization by directing them to participate in conversations about content and experiences on your website or app.

You Aren’t Re-Engaging Subscribers Who Are About To Churn

Businesses that fail to monitor subscriber behavior cannot identify when paying customers become unengaged and are at risk of churning. 

So it isn’t surprising that the American Press Institute reports that 86% of publishers see value in assessing subscriber interests and behaviors. 

By monitoring customer behaviors, you can pick out people who are likely to unsubscribe and then send them re-engagement alerts and emails.

“Advance identification of subscribers that are at risk of cancellation is a highly effective way of reducing subscriber churn,” says Faisal Kalim, an author at What’s New In Publishing.

Keep in mind that a subscription program cannot become a powerful revenue stream without implementing audience engagement and relationship-building strategies. 

Luckily, there are plenty of available Viafoura engagement tools that can help your media organization captivate potential and existing subscribers and maximize reader revenue.

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