Behind the Data: 78% Of Consumers Give Their Loyalty To Brands That Treat Them as Individuals

It’s very easy for publishers to lose sight of the fact that the readers who consume the content they produce are, in fact, individuals. As much as publishers want to profile their readers and establish common themes or pain points that resonate with their collective tastes and interests, it’s important never to lose sight of the fact that each reader is his or her own individual.

Publishers can’t allow themselves to lose sight of those facts while collecting audience data in an effort to stimulate audience-growth strategies. Everyone wants to feel like they’re valued, and that a publisher offers a user experience that’s unique to their specific preferences. A reader who feels valued and appreciated through personalized content recommendations is far more likely to become brand loyal, which is the pathway to earning subscription revenue from loyal readers.

Majorities of readers reward brands that earn their loyalty

Here are some helpful facts to paint a clearer picture. According to the 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index, as many as 78% of consumers admit to having a favorite brand because that brand rewards them for their loyalty. This could be expressed in the form of discounted subscription rates, or a free month of access to premium content.

Additionally, 74% of those same consumers prefer brands that treat them as individuals. It further validates the point that every person has unique tastes and preferences. When a reader visits a website to engage with new content, they want to believe that the content was created specifically for them. They want to feel as if the entire user experience is built to appeal to their unique interests.

Readers provide plenty of incentive for publishers to earn their loyalty. Over 70% of readers say their favorite brand is a business that strives to build a relationship with them. Another 64% say their favorite brand rewards their loyalty with surprise benefits, and 58% cite their favorite brand as the one that treats them like a VIP.

Everyone wants to feel like they’re special. Publishers that know how to create those feelings among their readers earn that invaluable brand loyalty.

First-party data shines a light on how to personalize content

Here’s the truth: 90% of readers respond positively to personalized experiences. As publishers, it’s essential to speak to individual readers using messaging that appeals to their interests. It’s through this approach that publishers show the humanity behind their brand identities, effectively communicating as one individual to another.

First-party data is how to create that personalized engagement and boost reader loyalty. First-party data enables publishers to learn specific details about individual buyers and monitor any change in those behaviors over time. Publishers use these insights to build rich audience profiles to develop behavioral patterns of their most avid readers.

A data-driven content strategy prioritizes personalization

Using these audience profiles, content creators produce highly personalized content across the entire website. Audience segmentation is one of the building blocks of a content strategy that’s informed by behavioral data.

Once you begin segmenting your readers, you can go a step further and analyze where in the subscription journey different types of readers happen to fall. Segment readers between new visitors, known readers, and subscribed loyalists to build richer details of how people respond to your content.

Using an audience insights solution, all of this data can be pulled into a dashboard that your creative team can review at their convenience. Creators can review the journeys taken by current subscribers to understand what types of content converted them into brand loyal readers. With those insights in hand, a data-driven content strategy can flourish and ultimately guide more readers to cross that threshold into the realm of becoming loyal subscribers.

Profile readers, build loyalty, boost subscriptions

Rich audience profiles tell creators how individual readers will respond to freshly created content. Using those insights, your creative team can double down on creating the types of stories that foster greater reader engagement. By relying on first-party data to direct the content strategy, you successfully create those personalized experiences that foster reader loyalty.

As data-driven content strategies develop over time, it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that the audiences that you depend on for first-party data, helpful insights, and subscription revenue are all made up of individuals. Individual readers have their own tastes and preferences, but it’s incumbent on publishers to learn about those interests so that readers are incentivized to provide more first-party data or, as they become fully brand loyal, subscription revenue.

HotNewHipHop focuses on showcasing artists and driving audience engagement with Viafoura

HotNewHipHop (HNHH) is an online publication that covers daily news about hip hop and pop culture, including streetwear, sports, and sneakers. In addition to its editorial news content, HotNewHipHop also produces original features and many video series. The site has been nominated multiple times for the BET Hip Hop Awards in the category, “The best Hip Hop Platform.”

HNHH empowers artists by letting them showcase their music to real hip hop fans while its members enjoy the latest and hottest in hip hop singles, mixtapes, videos and news. Saro Derbedrossian, CEO says that “HotNewHipHop is partnering with Viafoura so we can focus on providing our highly engaged community with a platform for lively discussions and civilized discourse, while also driving registrations and unlocking first party data. Our members will get an unparalleled personalized experience that will ensure they register, keep coming back and spend more time on our site.”

With the use of Viafoura’s full suite of services and features including Conversations, Custom Badging, AMA, Engagement Starter, and  Automated Moderation,  HotNewHipHop’s users will be able to build their identity on the HNHH platform. Whether it’s through sharing their opinions on the latest news, rating songs or album releases, the opportunities for registered users are endless.

“We’re very excited to partner with HotNewHipHop to bring a new layer of engagement and civility to their site,” says Dalia Vainer,  Director of Customer Success. With their eclectic, unique and highly-engaged community, we’re looking forward to unlocking brand new first party data to feed back to their editorial, product and commercial teams! We’re also very proud to welcome another Canadian customer to our collective!”

Top Revenue Diversification Streams For Publishers

At the root of every digital publication is an inherent goal to educate, interest, and engage with the intended audience. By providing relevant and informative content to the end users, publishers create thoughtful and fulfilling relationships with their readers. A consistent stream of high quality content motivates readers to return to the site and continue to consume the content.

The cycle repeats itself until the reader develops an affinity for the publishing brand. Visiting the website for the latest updates on the news of the day becomes part of a daily habit. As that habit becomes a growing need, those same readers become brand loyal users. These are the people with the highest potential to become paying subscribers for your top quality content.

All of that is well and good for building a loyal audience of passionate and engaged readers. But how do you monetize those efforts, and how can you introduce new revenue streams to scale growth higher and faster while maintaining publication standards and providing quality journalism? That’s what we’re going to discuss here.

Challenges for revenue-driven publication leaders

Increasing revenue requires a proactive push for subscriptions and a delivery of highly targeted ad inserts as part of an affiliate marketing program. The good news is that, according to Pew Research Center, 86% of American citizens get their news through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

More importantly, over half of respondents said they prefer consuming content through these devices as opposed to TV, radio, or podcasts. This means there does remain a sizable audience to monetize from through revenue diversification strategies.

The bad news is that, as polarization deepens throughout the population, the amount of trust in journalism has waned. This is a particularly growing problem for US publishers.

According to a study published by Statista, United States citizens rank lowest on a list of 40 countries whose residents say they trust the media. Only 26% of surveyed Americans say they trust the news media. By contrast, 37% of neighboring Mexicans say they trust the media, while 42% of neighboring Canadians admit they trust their news sources.

All of these insights emphasize why there’s such a strong need for a high quality content strategy. Aligning content production to the tastes and interests of the intended audience is essential to boost onsite engagement. That’s what allows you to run affiliate marketing campaigns with select partners.

Examples of revenue diversification channels

As a business model, it’s always critical to live by the adage “never put all of your eggs in one basket.” The more you can diversify means of generating revenue, the less likely you are to falter if one of those channels stops performing at the level that your business needs. When it comes to revenue diversification strategies, knowing how to utilize each of the channels available to grow your brand is vital to scaling new growth.

So what are some of the channels available for your revenue diversification strategy? Here’s a quick breakdown of each and how best to use them to your advantage.

Subscription models: win them over with quality

This is probably the most straightforward revenue generating model for publications. By convincing more of your reading audience to pay for access to your top shelf content, you’re earning direct value out of each posted story across your publication.

Many readers actively want to add their own opinions to a published piece of content. If you gate access to the comments section and the community behind it, you incentivize those readers to become paying customers.

In exchange, they gain the means to participate in lively discussions with other engaged readers. It’s a two way relationship that benefits the reader and your publication. You just need to guide people to that decision by doubling down on high quality content that increases their propensity to respond.

E-commerce strategies: target the right offers to the right people

It goes without saying that data is essential for any digital experience to become a successful venture. However, the type of data makes all the difference between publications that have something to sell to their e-commerce affiliates and those that don’t.

First-party data has become the backbone of any e-commerce engagement strategy. It’s by using first-party data that targeted shopping experiences are provided to the audience. This type of data allows you to build highly informative audience profiles in which you can segment your readers by their interests and what types of content best capture their attention.

By curating these profiles, you can coordinate with your e-commerce affiliates to create relevant shopping experiences for the intended audiences. Align the offers to the reader’s passions, which you can determine based on the content they consume. This is how you improve the user experience and make some extra money through your affiliates.

Affiliate links: personalize ad inserts for maximum effectiveness

This is a very similar approach to your e-commerce strategy. Using first-party data and the profiles you create from it, your affiliates can customize the ad inserts they promote to specific types of readers on your site.

Customization and personalization are the best ways to generate views, clicks, and engagement from targeted advertising. Show your affiliates details about the end audience so that they can create highly curated messaging, images, videos, and other forms of content to connect with the audience. If done successfully, they should see a healthy return for their efforts.

Flexible commercial models: putting it together

Imagine if you could give your affiliate partners the ability to form a trusted partnership built around reliable, audience-driven, first-party data. How much more valuable would a relationship with your publication be to those affiliates as opposed to a standard commercial revenue vendor type relationship that other publishers will offer? There’s no question: you gain a significant competitive advantage by offering a commercial revenue partnership.

The first-party data you possess and the audience profiles you build allow affiliates to send out promotions that will earn engagement. People end up coming to your site and the site of your affiliates. It’s more scalable, more flexible, and more beneficial for everyone involved.


With an analytical approach to the data available to you, a definitive goal, and an audience-first content strategy, the right revenue growth tactics will become increasingly evident. Keep in mind that each of the above approaches, while uniquely effective, may not align with your brand and its interests – which is OK! Carefully curate strategies that are in alignment with your brand’s overarching POV and they will in turn effectively serve the long term goals of your organization and contribute to the growth of your audience and, subsequently, your revenue.

Reality Check: 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.

Four Reasons Why Consumers Will Pay for a Media Subscription

Subscriptions are, without a doubt, helping to sustain the media industry. As the number of people willing to pay for subscriptions grows, this revenue stream is becoming essential for any media company hoping to survive.

Purse strings may be tight, but sustained growth in subscriptions [is] up by 19% year-on-year,” explains Dan Ison, a consulting partner at Deloitte.  

This means that media companies are witnessing an increasing level of willingness among people to invest in top-quality content and experiences.

And a wealth of information that could help you maximize subscription sales is within your reach. Prepare to find out precisely what makes consumers want to hand over some cash in exchange for a media subscription.

Meaningful Connections

Take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: Would you pay for something you don’t feel connected to? Odds are, you probably wouldn’t.

You can bet that your company’s online visitors will say the same thing: they aren’t going to pay for a subscription if they don’t feel connected to your brand. 

Rob Tornoe, a columnist and cartoonist for Editor and Publisher, notes that successful membership projects are powered by “an editorial mindset that values a strong relationship with readers.” 

But a relationship is a two-way street. In other words, both parties need to participate for it to become meaningful enough to invest time and energy into it. 

Of course, strong relationships can’t be formed with a middleman blocking you from your potential subscribers. Media companies must take back control of their audiences by establishing social connections on their own websites and apps, away from the trolls, misinformation and inaccessible user data on social media.

Once you show your audience members that they can nurture a connection with or around your company in a safe space, your organization will start to matter to them and so will your subscription fee.

Supportive Resources

When people visit a media company’s website or app, they’re often looking to be supported with relevant information, entertainment or social engagement. 

If you can prove to visitors that your organization offers a reliable, trusted source of support, you’ll boost your chances of earning their loyalty as subscribers. 

“[People] trust your [organization] to solve their problem, or achieve their goal, forever,” says Robbie Kellman Baxter, a business strategy consultant. “They take off their ‘consumer hat’, don a ‘member hat’ and stop considering alternatives.”

Being Understood

Humans are naturally driven by habit, meaning that we all demonstrate similar behaviors over and over again. In the digital world, the unique needs and desires of internet users are made visible by these distinct behaviors through first-party data. 

Quartz President Katie Weber states that for companies to achieve subscription growth, they must “focus on really, deeply understanding the audience, what their needs are and where they might be underserved by other publications.” 

Organizations can gain insight into each user’s behavior and habits simply by tapping into their user data. Companies that then take the time to provide personalized experiences for their visitors can strengthen overall interest in their digital offerings. As a result, visitors will be more engaged and attentive to a subscription package.

Gaining Access to Exclusive Experiences

Recently, many media companies have seen significant subscriber growth directly tied to locking exclusive (a.k.a “premium”) experiences behind a paywall.

France-based news company Le Parisien has even doubled its paying members by reserving premium content for subscribers. Now, 90% of its subscriber base is generated through these exclusive articles, which draw on user data to maximize engagement.

Media companies can follow suit with high-converting subscriber experiences by reserving content, social tools, podcasts and events for paying subscribers. After all, interesting and relevant experiences are often worth paying a small price to access.

While people are more willing than ever before to pay for a subscription to a media company, there’s an unlimited number of competitors fighting for their attention. Not to mention that each person will only pay for a small number of media subscriptions.  

The only way to make your content and services stand out from the rest is to exceed your visitors’ expectations. Create meaningful relationships with audience members, support visitors and produce personalized and exclusive experiences to win over potential subscribers before they ever have a chance to spend their time and money elsewhere.

Three Things Video-Streaming Platforms Are Doing Right

It seems as though every month or so, a new competitor joins the streaming wars. Even ordinary publishers, like Food 52, are stepping beyond the boundaries of text to create their own OTT platforms and streaming content. 

This increase in OTT players can be largely credited to the shift in consumers cutting the cord with traditional TV. And this trend doesn’t seem to be letting up, regardless of the pandemic.

As lockdown measured eased towards the end of June [2020], the uplift in viewing to video streaming services and other non-broadcast content held steady, at 71% higher than the year before,” reads an article on the IBC website

Clearly, the consumer’s desire to stream content is growing. So how can you ensure your platform remains engaging, resilient and profitable as new industry players continue to pop up? 

If you’re getting ready to enter the video-streaming space, or if you’d like to improve your current services, there are valuable lessons we can take away from the lucrative ideas other OTT platforms already had.

Here are some of the intelligent actions and strategies that are propelling streaming platforms toward success.

A Shift to Social Tools

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+ have all launched some form of watch party feature over the past few months. And now, HBO Max has revealed how plans are in the works to upgrade its platform through social tools as well.

“Several months after launch, we have plans to start integrating [social watch features] into the platform,” says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer.We do think that’s an important aspect now more than ever.” 

Little by little, streaming companies are beginning to recognize the importance of encouraging human connection around content

Allowing consumers to participate in real-time conversations as they watch videos together can build loyal habits and connections among community members. Plus, social features that enable consumers to chat with friends give OTT platforms an additional edge over other platforms.

Revenue Diversification

When we talk about publishers in general, we know that there’s been a growing trend to create as many revenue outlets as possible. But OTT players can also activate several revenue streams to maximize their earnings. 

For instance, Peacock has set up free and premium-level subscription tiers that are generating revenue in a few different ways. There’s a free-to-watch option with ads, a paid-for subscription option with ads for a premium experience and a paid, ad-free option.  Senior TV Analysis Tom Harrington from Enders Analysis explains that this type of subscription tier is highly enticing to the average consumer. 

“It’s very, very competitive,” states Harrington.

Since its launch, the video-streaming platform has earned 10 million sign-ups. That means the company is profiting off its vast audience thanks to paying subscribers and paying advertisers looking for interested audiences. 

Discovery will be following suit in 2021 by launching a streaming platform with similar membership options.

According to Digiday, “Discovery+ will feature an ad-supported and an ad-free tier, and the ad-supported tier will carry a maximum of five minutes of ads per hour of programming.”

Both of these OTT platforms are not only supporting consumers by giving them premium experiences, but they’re also expanding their ability to earn revenue. After all, the more ways you can monetize your audience, the more revenue your company is likely to make.

Putting Consumers First

As of April 2020, Netflix has singlehandedly earned 182.8 million subscribers around the world.

So what is it that viewers love so much about Netflix compared to the other platforms? 

It all comes down to how users have become connected to the platform. 

Netflix excels at putting the consumer in the center of its growth strategy, encouraging viewers to feel bonded to the platform.

In addition to serving viewers highly personalized and relevant user experiences, the streaming platform will even cancel a subscription if the account holder doesn’t use their service within a year. 

According to Robbie Kellman Baxter, bestselling author of The Forever Transaction, “it’s not just about subscriptions, but about long-term relationships with the customer.”

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of these successful companies?

By replicating these strategies, you can help perfect your platform’s user experience and amplify its revenue-generation capabilities. 

Quick and Easy Ways to Enhance Your Premium Subscription Experience

By now, your media company’s probably navigating the world of subscription revenue. So ask yourself this: Is the ‘premium’ experience you offer consumers in exchange for their subscription truly worth the cost?

Pumping out top-quality content is a great way to generate interest in your brand, but it isn’t enough to persuade people to pay for a subscription. Not when countless other media companies are doing the same thing. 

Instead, you need to learn about your audience, identify your company’s most active community members, and then hit them with unique and exclusive experiences. 

Rob Ristagno, the CEO of the Stirling Woods Group consulting agency, explains that the top 10-15% of your most valuable active readers are your “whales,” and can generate up to 90% of reader revenue. 

Premium membership experiences should be designed to engage these revenue-generating whales to keep them paying and forging precious connections on your digital properties. Here are the type of subscription experiences that will stand out to these community members, and strengthen their interest in your brand:

Exclusive Interactive Digital Events

Consumers are gradually becoming comfortable attending virtual events in place of in-person ones. As a result, some publishers are beginning to reserve special events for subscribers to enhance the value of their subscription programs.

Just look at the New York Times’ “Subscriber Events.” According to the publisher, “Subscriber Events are live and remote experiences that bring All Access Plus subscribers closer to The Times, to… journalists and to the larger subscriber community.”

Meaningful connections formed through digital events like these will encourage subscribers to value their surrounding community. Which means more active audience members on your properties, who understand the worth of your subscription program.

When it comes to remote events, it’s essential to also integrate an interactive element into them. Consumers are hungry for social interactions in these isolating times. By including an interactive component, you can establish close connections between your active subscribers and brand.

Member-Only Online Discussions

Consumer interest in online engagement has grown by 53% in the past few weeks.

That said, hosting conversations for your subscribers is an engaging way to amp up the quality of your subscription program. But this doesn’t mean that you need to rely on complicated technology or require extensive resources to implement these experiences. 

An engaging subscription experience can be as simple as offering an exclusive live chat or conversation section for members to discuss and debate interesting topics and latest events.

“The New York Times and The Financial Times have encouraged more debate on their own platforms to improve the experience for paying readers,” reads an article on Digiday. 

These gated conversation-based events are also an effective way for sports media companies to add value for registrants or subscribers in the absence of in-person audiences.

“Organizations that optimize for engagement, as opposed to chasing the transaction, will find success and profitability in the long-term relationships they develop,” states Robbie Kellman Baxter, who wrote a novel on retaining subscribers.

Subscription-Only Podcasts

Podcasts have been picking up steam over the past few years. Not only do audio experiences help publishers connect with individuals in an engaging way, but they can also be more personal to consumers compared to written content. 

As publishers begin to see the value of podcasts, they’re now being leveraged more frequently to help drive subscriptions. 

The Athletic, for example, is starting to explore subscriber-specific podcasts to monetize the platform in a way that also benefits subscribers. 

Subscription-only podcasts have also contributed to over 70% of all subscriptions to Slate’s membership product, Slate Plus. 

Podcasts are typically engaging, entertaining and informative — all qualities that can enhance an ordinary consumer experience.

Curated Newsletters

Personalized newsletters crafted specifically for your subscribers can be a powerful way to build your audience’s interest in your brand. You simply need to draw on their first-party data to understand what types of content they’re engaging with.

For the Washington Post, personalized newsletters earn triple the engagement than regular ones. 

“It’s not about throwing all of your content together and calling it a membership program,” says Ristagno. “It’s about strategically selecting the content that is of greatest value to your whales and crafting a membership program with additional features around it.”

You now have all the knowledge you need to execute engaging experiences that activate your most profitable community members. But don’t wait to get started — without an attractive membership experience, your subscribers likely won’t remain paying community members for long.

Churn Reduction 101: What the Media Experts Have to Say

Thanks to the unpredictable algorithms on big tech platforms and decline of third-party cookies, the most effective path to earning revenue is changing. Media companies must now compensate for these failing revenue streams by investing in their own properties. 

As a result, subscription or membership-based business models are becoming commonplace among media companies. But with most consumers only willing to pay for up to four media services at a time, the competitive landscape is resulting in high amounts of subscriber churn.

“It is always much easier to retain somebody than to bring in someone new, because they already value and trust you,” states Condé Nast’s VP of audience development and analytics.

So to keep your audience members loyal and lucrative, you must focus on activating and engaging a tight-knit community right on your website or app. 

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what your fellow industry experts have to say on how to go about reducing customer churn. 


The Athletic: Building an Engaged Community

Every loyal, paying community starts with an engaging conversion strategy. And The Athletic’s CEO, Alex Mather, thinks so too. 

“We see an incredible connection between community engagement and subscriber retention,” says Mather. “The question that drives us is how can we connect users in an authentic way, how can we connect users to our staff in an authentic way.”

Successful conversion strategies tend to connect engagement and registration systems together. That way, you can detect drops in engagement, and send special content offers to those likely to churn.


The Wall Street Journal: Early Habit Formation 

“The biggest driver of churn reduction amongst new [subscription] members is the creation of early habit formation,” writes Ian Tucker, the associate director of optimization at The Wall Street Journal. 

The Wall Street Journal’s subscriber onboarding process ensures that the first 100 days after becoming a subscriber — the period a user is most likely to form habits — are packed with opportunities for engagement

The more interactions you can encourage from your subscribers, the more likely they are to return to your property in the future. Translation: encourage your readers to habitually use your platform, and watch as their loyalty grows. 

It’s not just about building our membership models, and looking at churn rates, and acquisitions rates,” states Jonathan Wright, who works as the global managing director for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. “It’s really about the engagement of those customers once we have them on the platform, once they’re experiencing the content.”


The New York Times: Understanding Subscribers

User data truly stands at the heart of engaging and retaining consumers at The New York Times. According to the company’s editorial director of newsletters, data and user research is essential in helping companies learn what kinds of content subscribers crave, and how they most wish to consume it. 

In other words, a business can best understand its audience by seriously digging into its first-party data, and then using that knowledge to refine the subscriber experience. 

It’s also important to monitor your audience data and engagement closely to understand why and when subscribers are churning. 

“The bottom line is that people who aren’t using the product are likely to churn… Email them, reach out to remind them what you’re doing and what’s of value to them,” explains The Times’ CEO. 

There are a multitude of ways you can help to prevent your audience members from unsubscribing. Learn how to prevent churn and re-engage unsubscribers here


OTT Platforms: Personalization

“We know that today’s connected consumers expect a deeply personalized experience,” states Jason Wong, Hulu’s director of product management. 

Through the power of your audience’s data, you can enrich their experience with relevant information and content. 

“If you can understand what people care about during the process, and prove to them you can be trusted with the information you’re asking for, that goes a long way. Then they can just focus on the experience they are trying to buy,” says the head of the acquisition and retention team at DAZN. 

Consumers are willing to pay for valuable media experiences. So by engaging your subscribers through custom and “premium” experiences, you’ll be setting your company up for long-term success.

Week of Oct. 12th-18th: Your Media News Update

The past seven days have seen a lot of chatter within the media and publishing industry. The many news stories and reports that have been revealed will have a significant impact on the industry moving forward, including:

  • The many creative ways publishers are using first-party data to better understand subscription behaviors, and implement initiatives to reduce churn
  • How publishers continue to compete with social media players
  • The major successes email publishers are experiencing by allocating more resources towards building and growing subscription referral programs

To learn more and stay up to date with the latest and greatest industry news from the past week, read the details below.

Media Companies Experiment to Decrease Subscription Churn

Schibsted Media Group has decreased the amount of customers who cancel subscriptions by pioneering a seemingly counterintuitive sales model. This model makes it easy for consumers to cancel subscriptions, but at the same time, convinces them why it’s worth keeping. Emphasizing the utility of the product and giving users the power to make their own choices has dramatically increased Schibsted Media Group’s subscriber engagement. In addition, the company has turned the cancellation process into an educational experience by providing users with more information on how they benefit from their subscription.

Apple is another company that recently recognized a missed opportunity to improve subscriber retention. After looking at their data to understand where subscribers were most likely to drop off, they implemented a new billing feature for subscription apps. Referred to as a billing grace period, users are given more time to address auto-payment issues before they are cut off from paid content.

Many publishers are also increasing their ad spend as a way to reach more potential subscribers. The goal is to lead users to content that requires registering through a paywall. Publishers are trying to make the best use of their subscription data by creating digital marketing campaigns that focus on targeting audiences with similar characteristics as their current subscriber base. That way, they can attract and keep new audiences.

The Battle Between Publishers and Social Media Continues

With Facebook preparing to launch a human-curated “news tab” this month, publishers are becoming increasingly threatened by social media.

The industry has long argued against not getting a cut of the revenue that social platforms make from sharing their content. Additionally, a report from the Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook will only be paying a small handful of the publishers for content that’s shared in its human-curated news tab.

This week, Publicis’ Zenith Media published Advertising Expenditure Forecasts, revealing that social media has overtaken print in ad spend for the first time ever. That growth will expand social media’s share of global ad spend to 13%, making social media the third-biggest ad channel behind TV (29%) and paid search (17%) in 2019.

Although publishers face major challenges with the increasing popularity of social media amongst their target audiences, consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical and distrusting of the quality of news they receive through these platforms. This declining trust in social media poses a huge opportunity for publishers to focus on building civil social experiences on their own platforms. There’s still a demand for meaningful news, information and entertainment that publishers can provide as a counterbalance to the “fake news” on social media.

A new survey asked 1,200 adults about their thoughts on media, privacy and trust. The results found that 86% of people believe there’s a “fake news” problem that continues to grow in the market. Additionally, 66% of people said data-privacy concerns affected their trust in social media.

Leveraging the Power of Email Referral Programs

Since people love free stuff, some email publishers have started giving their readers free perks as a way to grow their subscription lists. Morning BrewThe Hustle and TheSkimm are prime examples of email-based publishers who have established referral programs that encourage subscribers to get their friends to sign-up to newsletters.

The programs now account for a significant chunk of year-over-year email list growth. The Morning Brew, which launched its referral program in 2017, now has 1.6 million subscribers to its daily newsletter. The publisher attributes 35% of its newsletter audience growth to the referral program.

The Hustle, which used referral programs to promote both its free daily newsletter and paid products, created its first version of the program in 2015 to sell event tickets. Because the referral program grew their email list so significantly, they launched a newsletter business the following year to capitalize on the growing audience. The referral program now accounts for about 10% of growth towards the The Hustle’s newsletter list and has over 10,000 subscribers, who have each referred at least four other sign-ups.

TheSkimm, which introduced email referrals through word-of-mouth call-to-actions in 2012, now credits 20% of its newsletter growth to the publisher’s referral program. The program is so strong that the newsletter publisher has more than 30,000 Skimm’bassadors, which are community members that have referred 10 or more people to sign up for the daily newsletter.

Results have shown that subscribers are willing to refer a publisher when offered anything from branded T-shirts and stickers, to exclusive content or contests. Although these programs can require quite a bit of budget allocation for gifts or prizes, the cost of retaining a customer or increasing loyalty significantly outweighs the short-term expenditure.

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