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#28. The FT’s journey to 2.45M global paying audience and 54% digital reader revenue

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Do more with less, the very appealing mantra for 2024

Nieman Lab have published their annual predictions for 2024, and Sarah Marshall's in particular really hit home…

“With a seemingly limitless number of platforms on which to meet and engage audiences — but still a finite number of hours in the day — teams will need to develop frameworks to understand where to start, stop, and pivot.”

I certainly agree, and this applies to even the very basics – content. At The Audiencers' Festival, our panel spoke about the importance of studying the value of each article to understand which ‘type' of content (or ) are most beneficial to different business goals – such as (acquisition & ), or for your journalistic mission. 

studying the value of each article
Framework from Mather Economics

For instance, Martina Andretta at the New Statesman shared how they analyzed 844 articles published over 7 weeks for 2 performance metrics (page views and conversions) to ensure that each article had a clear role for the business. 

After this analysis and work with and product teams on optimization efforts, they successfully managed to increase performance of content whilst decreasing the number of articles published. (example below of PV performance for culture articles)

studying the value of each article

More details on the NS example & how Berlingske Media Group did something similar with user needs

Now on to today's newsletter: 

  • 4 learnings about  after 5 years working on Paid Content at ZEIT ONLINE
  • How to evaluate the success of your subscription model (before optimizing)
  • Digital transformation at FT: what's changed & what hasn't?
  • Leveraging new audiences at The Guardian: how their 12for12 campaign led to 2,754 new subscribers
  • Content to add to your reading list

4 learnings about A/B testing from ZEIT ONLINE

A/B testing is essential to being successful in the subscription business. Whether Spotify, Netflix, Disney or – everything is tested before it is rolled out on a large scale.

“I have conducted over 100 A/B tests in the last few years and would like to share my top 4 learnings. Although these insights come from a non-data perspective, they are particularly valuable for anyone approaching the topic from a product or growth perspective.”

SaschaBossen, in charge of paid content product management at ZEIT ONLINE, shares 4 learnings from his work to help you ace your next A/B tests: 

 1/ Pay attention to the novelty effect

A common stumbling block in my A/B testing was the exciting first uplift. After a week of testing, you look at the initial results and see a big uplift in the test group.

But be aware that this gain often disappears after a few weeks, a classic sign of the novelty effect. Returning users in particular can be tempted to behave atypically in the short term in reaction to new elements such as a new layout or different features.

A/B testing at Zeit Online

How do you overcome this stumbling block? 

  • Extend the testing time: A longer testing period helps distinguish initial excitement from real improvements. A declining difference between the test and control groups over time indicates the novelty effect.
  • Analyze first-time visitors: If first-time visitors don't show any significant differences between the test and control groups, but returning visitors do, then take results with a pinch of salt.

Find 3 more lessons from Sascha in his article on The Audiencers

How to evaluate the success of your subscription model (before optimizing)

Our recent webinar with Mather Economics wasn't one to miss, but if you didn't make it, I did share some key insights from the first half in an article on The Fix. 

“The goal here is to help you establish a 360 view of your digital subscription model so far, understanding your position both in the market and on the (arguably endless) journey to digital transformation. With this knowledge, you'll be able to make more informed decisions to build solid foundations, optimize your strategy and continue to develop without walking before you can run.”

Digital transformation at FT: what's changed & what hasn't?

With a 1.7M digital paying audience, Financial Times have clearly done well on their digital transformation journey since they first launched a paywall in 2002, switching from a model focused on print & advertising to digital & reader revenue.

Financial Times digital reader revenue model

But, as we all know, digital transformation doesn't happen overnight and you won't hit the perfect strategy first time. It takes years of testing, developments, new roles, different KPIs, digital mindsets and restructuring…

Financial Times digital reader revenue model

What hasn't changed throughout all this?  

1️⃣ Being customer-first
-> Having a direct relationship with customers and prioritizing trust & transparency
-> Know who your customers are (not who you think they are)

2️⃣ Continually testing & optimizing
-> Adapting access model based on customer behavior and insights

3️⃣ Setting North Star metrics
-> Clear goals & principles that can be seen and understood by the entire

4️⃣ Investing in people
-> Evolving ways of working to enable collaboration, continually investing in skills and capabilities

5️⃣ Focusing on content
-> Providing compelling, quality coverage provides direct value to audiences
-> Remember what is unique to your brand; focus on what you're good at and how you provide value to your audience

What's contributed to this success? 

Investing in people, process and tech

Financial Times digital reader revenue model

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Leveraging new audiences at The Guardian 

The pitch: what could we achieve with a large campaign investment pot, a new attractive discount and major on- platform support?”

The campaign: develop the existing 6for6 offer to 12for12, a high-acquiring, high-retaining offer which is easier to market, and easier for the consumer to understand.

  • Focused multi-region approach. Covering the UK (The Guardian's base, with the highest brand awareness and strongest chance of high acquisition) and Australia (a trial ‘growth' market strong on-the-ground support)
  • Greater channel mix. Expanded on-platform support leveraging the warm Guardian audiences with a diversified paid channel mix, door drops, podcast host reads and audio

The creative strategy

  • Use the existing brand platform, but take lessons from other magazines and subscription products
  • Become more performance-focused and direct response orientated, to drive urgency amongst consumers
  • A varied distribution and campaign plan across a wide range of mediums to cover all bases, including paid social, podcast sponsorship, print door drops and inserts and on-platform digital.
The Guardian subscription campaign

Find the full article & results on The Audiencers

Content to add to your reading list

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