Growing subs extended date

Growing subscriptions with great insights

Published: 20 Mar 2023

The subscription economy is booming. In Q4 2022, subscriptions saw the strongest revenue growth for publishers, with an increase of 12.9% year-on-year. Despite cost-of-living pressures, it seems clear that audiences are continuing to prioritise premium content. However, publishers can’t afford to rest on their laurels either: according to a 2022 YouGov study, 29% of Britons had cancelled at least one subscription in the month prior and 91% hadn’t made any new subscription commitments in the same time period. Globally, consumers are cancelling subscriptions almost twice as fast as they are taking on new ones.

Against a backdrop where many of us are consolidating the number of subscriptions they keep, how can digital publishers continue to satisfy their subscribers and grow that all-important first-party data? We reached out to the members of our AOP Awards jury to get their insights on how digital publishers can deliver value to both existing and prospective subscribers.

Shaping great content through great insights

Subscribers are looking to publishers for the content they deliver – whether that’s cutting-edge news stories or tips on how to improve their baking. And understanding your audiences is key to ensuring your offering meets the needs of your customers – both your subscribers and your more casual users.

“This means not making assumptions about what customers want, or glibly applying criteria that may have worked in the past,” warned Richard O’Connor, CEO at B2B Marketing. “Customer needs are constantly evolving, and publishers must use data and insight to keep pace, ensuring that they deliver high quality content that a prospective customer is prepared to subscribe to and thus give up their data.”

Chris Dicker, Managing Director at TrustedReviews Limited, concurred with the importance of robust audience insights, and suggested that publishers should use “surveys and feedback mechanisms to gather data on subscriber demographics, interests, and behaviour” in order to hone their product development strategy.

Translating insights into personalisation

Understanding your audience also opens the door to deliver an enhanced experience for your audience. Offering personalised recommendations increases engagement and also provides a slicker experience for your customers. And as Tim Willcox, Regional Vice President, UK, at PubMatic, recommended to us, publishers should “personalise their content and offerings based on their subscribers’ interests, demographics, and behaviour, which will increase the value of subscription.”

To truly gain the benefit of your subscription package, Suswati Basu, Head of Audience at NationalWorld, highlighted that “advertising of subscriptions must be visible to casual readers alike so they are fully aware of the benefits of purchasing one.” And this personalised approach also helps in converting users along your subscription funnel.

“New Scientist uses technology to create a smooth user journey through our funnel,” explained Justin Viljoen, New Scientist’s Sales Director. “Adding small value exchanges along the journey helps to ensure that we keep engaging with these users, so they are frequently coming to the site, read newsletters, and listen to podcasts until they are ready to become premium subscribers.” Justin then continued on to explain that alongside that, this approach also builds a better proposition for their commercial partnerships through their highly valuable first-party data.

“Regular use of your product or service means you can continue to gather data over time,” shared Fiona Tully, Managing Director, Media Division, at Sift, highlighting a range of progressive profiling solutions from automated pop-ups and polls, to tracking on-site behaviour, to requiring additional data from users to unlock certain pieces of content. “Content is king, but context drives action.”

Building trust with your audiences

Two of our jurors highlighted the importance of trust when it came to encouraging users to share their data with you or invest in a subscription. People are becoming increasingly protective – understandably – of their data, and digital publishers need to rebuild the trust with their audiences in this area to demonstrate that they will protect their data. PubMatic’s Tim Willcox explained that publishers should be transparent about how they collect and use subscriber data. “By giving subscribers control over their data and providing clear explanations of how it is used, publishers can build trust and increase the likelihood of retaining subscribers,” Tim continued.

However, trust is built across more pillars than just data protection, and Craig Tuck, Chief Revenue Officer at The Ozone Project, highlighted the importance of being clear about the values that are important to your organisation. “Consumers want to know about a company’s efforts in climate change and protecting vulnerable communities, for instance,” Craig shared. “It’s important, with authenticity, that a publisher displays these credentials in all of its communication. I believe consumers (subscribers) will vote with their feet if this is not a pillar for the publisher.”

The AOP Digital Publishing Awards close for entry on March 30th! Enter now for your chance to win. Alternatively, if you have any questions about entering, please email and we’d be happy to help.


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