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JUN 22 How can publishers make sure theyre moving their audience through the membership funnel edit 01

Five expert ideas on how to convert audience engagement to value

Published: 23 May 2022

As a publisher, your audience is your most precious asset and continually engaging and re-engaging your readers, viewers, and listeners in your content is essential for success. But with big players in subscription content such as Netflix facing challenges, how can you make sure you’re hitting the right notes?

Last month at AOP CRUNCH, we heard from a panel of publishers discussing how digital publishing brands are developing fluid strategies that evolve in response to changes in behaviour and it was encouraging to hear their confidence that premium publishing content will continue to engage audiences.

But what do our expert partners think is the key to ensuring you’re moving your audience through the subscription or membership funnel? Here are five ideas to inspire your approach as you refine your own audience development strategies for the future.

A paywall may not be the solution for you – but a freemium model or dynamic paywall could be.

Following the introduction of The New York Times’ paywall in 2011, many publishers have embraced this model as an alternative to advertising. However, few of them have enough loyal audience or unique information to reach a decent amount of direct reader revenue, meaning they must find alternative models to engage readers into their subscription funnel. The hybrid freemium model or dynamic paywall is the most effective way to generate engagement and audience growth and convert subscribers. One effective complementary approach is to provide a different set of bespoke products to your audience (e.g. newsletter subscriptions, competitive analysis for a specific sector or even games as we have seen with Wordle recently).

Benjamin Lanfry, VP Global Publisher Partnerships, Ogury

Granular audience insights are essential to shaping your strategy.

Success in subscriptions requires much more than just deciding when to stop users and ask them to pay. Moving users through the membership funnel requires novel tactics to attract and engage users; varied commercial offers to appeal to a broader base or upsell; better processes to reduce friction in purchasing; and compelling ways to re-engage and retain customers who might otherwise churn. Publishers need a holistic view of this user journey, with granular insight that they can actually act on. Only then can they optimize each of these pivotal moments along the subscription journey and generate lasting customer relationships.

Rupert Knowles, UK General Manager, Piano

Nurture new users with your trending content.

On average 65% of the content produced does not bring significant page views, users or subscriptions. To fix this, publishers must instrument a simple, yet effective way to monitor their audiences from all corners: content production and consumption, user behaviour and conversion attribution model. Then define audiences and deliver personalised experiences. For instance, your lover-readers (High RFV - recency-frequency-volume metric) should be invited to register for your newsletter before being asked to subscribe. Equally stop asking new users to pay for your content, instead nurture them with your real-time trending content. Publishers need to adopt technologies that let them operate their sites in a scalable and easy way (no code).

Alexian Chiavegato, CMO, Marfeel

Building trust is crucial to growth.

The increasing importance of first party data for media owners monetisation means that building trust with the consumer is, more than ever, a crucial strategy for growth. Publishers can encourage consumer loyalty and greater activity through membership portals–enticing them through options like customised content, newsletters, etc. This will lead to highly engaged consumers as well as a better, more customised experience for them. It gives publishers the chance to reinforce relationships with consumers, ultimately building stronger trust in their outlet.

Sara Vincent, Senior director, strategic partner development, Index Exchange

Privacy has to be at the heart of your strategy.

The first part is identifying the key audience groups, and how they might best buy into your services, i.e. pricing, on-boarding promotions etc. Then you set up your funnels to capture the data, using automated comms and where appropriate manual task creation for the bigger sales.

Crucially for this all to work well, it should be fully GDPR compliant - respecting users' permissions and preferences, and absolutely seamless so that every part of the journey is appealing. You'll then want to iterate the pricing, messaging and packages to keep them fresh and engaging for both new and returning subscribers

Markus Karlsson, CEO, Affino