Analysis

Lessons in reducing churn from some of the world’s biggest publishers

Chris Sutcliffe explores strategies global publishers are employing to reduce churn in his latest piece for What’s New in Publishing.

The era of untrammelled growth in digital news subscriptions might be over before it truly began. Despite the high-profile successes of The Times, the NYT and The Washington Post among others, the needle hasn’t significantly moved when it comes to the number of people who are willing to pay for a digital news subscription. The latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report found that only single-digit proportions of people said they would subscribe to a digital news source.

Additionally it is the opinion of analysts including Lucy Kueng that the total number of digital news subscribers to a given title will never be enough to sustain the type of high-quality, international content to which news publishers aspire alone. Despite that, subscriptions and memberships are demonstrably a much sturdier and reliable source of revenue than many of their alternatives, with digital advertising in particular set to play an increasingly marginal role in total revenue.

Consequently, the game for news publishers is to add as many new subscribers as possible in the short-term, before the space becomes too crowded, while at the same time using the skills and tools developed to onboard those new subscribers to deepen the engagement with existing ones. While the KPIs are bound to shift, from growing logged-in users to decreasing churn as much as possible, the strategy behind digital subscriptions will remain the same: It’s all about deepening engagement.

At many publishers, that strategy rests upon new technology or tools for analysis.

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