Digital Subscriptions: Top Trends & Success Stories: Nancy Lane
Digital Subscriptions – Top
Trends & Success Stories
Presented by Nancy Lane,
President, Local Media
LEAP MEDIA ROUNDTABLE
AUGUST 23, 2018
About Local Media Association
An umbrella organization that represents
ALL local media including newspapers, TV
stations, radio stations, directories, online-
only news sites, etc.
Over 2,800 newspapers/TV stations/radio
stations, etc. are members of the
We Are Intensely Focused on Helping Local Media
Companies Discover New & Sustainable Business Models
New York Times –
Source: Recode Media
“What Best Describes Your Company’s Philosophy
When It Comes to Digital Subscriptions?”
Nearly 70% of Local Newspapers say it’s a Top 3 Priority
Source: Local Media Association Innovation
5 Trends Are Emerging from the Leaders
in Digital Subscriptions:
1. Newsletters are their #1 source for converting digital subscribers
2. They produce content that’s worth paying for (investing heavily in journalism)
3. Data-driven strategies are key to their success (very sophisticated approach)
4. They make investments in the right technology (choosing the right R&D partners)
5. They commit to a hard paywall (readers hit the wall after 2-4 articles)
The Seattle Times:
It’s Everyone’s Job to Grow Digital Subscriptions
60% of their revenue comes from audience not
Digital paywall: started at 15; now at 4
Newsletters drive digital subscription conversions
Goal of newsletters – force readers to hit the
paywall (20+ links)
25X conversion rate from newsletters vs. Facebook
Incentivizing the newsroom for driving digital subs
They are now #2 in the U.S.
The Seattle Times:
32% open rate
Newsletters – Best Conversion Tool for Many Others
The Washington Post added 4.6 million newsletter
subscribers in the past two years and more than
tripled their traffic from newsletters.
A registered user is 22 times more likely to subscribe
than a non-registered user with The New York Times.
Many of those users are newsletter subscribers.
The Wall Street Journal uses 24-hour guest passes
and newsletters to convert their best prospects.
GateHouse Media recently announced the
creation of a consumer marketing agency that will
focus on digital subscriptions. In the ramp-up
phase over the past 12-18 months, they have
launched 451 newsletters. They sent out 10x as
many emails in 2018 as they did in 2017.
Know LTV of every subscriber over the past 8 years (+ the lead source)
"Registration wall” to maximize sampling & conversions
Nurture prospect & customer journeys
Newsletter signups are the top leads source for new starts:
Expanded from 5 newsletters to
200 newsletter signups per day
Personalized newsletter testing
San Francisco Chronicle: All about the Consumer Funnel
Newsletters: top source for conversions
Companies That Are Winning in the Digital
Subscription Space Are Obsessed with Data.
The Wall Street Journal assigns a
propensity score to every visitor. “When
someone has a high propensity score,
we lock down the site,” said Jon Buckley,
Director, Digital Subscriber Acquisition &
In order to understand what drives
subscriptions, they follow 65 different
signals such as visit frequency, number of
articles per visit, zip code and device. .
Are Key to
The Seattle Times uses heat maps to plot digital
audience vs. content creation by day and hour. They
also believe that it’s everyone’s job in the company
to grow digital subscriptions.
Recently, they started incentivizing newsroom
employees on digital conversions. Anyone else doing
The Financial Times segments users into seven different
groups based on RTV (recency, frequency, volume)
ranging from super fans to disengaged long tail.
Membership Models – Do They
Represent The Future?
Are We Thinking Big Enough?
Are We Thinking Bold Enough?
What Would Amazon Do?
Do I Have Something Worth
The top performers have
invested heavily in their
newsrooms. If you don’t, this
strategy isn’t likely to be
• 93% of The Washington Post’s subscribers are outside of
the DC area. In Boston, more than 50% are outside of the
• The disruptors are developing ad-free subscription models
(check out The Athletic).
• Our industry doesn’t obsess over UX. To win in this space,
we must. “Locking down the site” is not user-friendly
language. “Forcing them to hit the paywall” isn’t either.
Things That Keep Us Up at Night…
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report: Digital Subscriptions – Top