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NZZ: How do you inspire people in the first 100 days?

100 days. During this time, you have to convince new users that your is worthwhile for them.

One of the latest guests on my Subscribe Now podcast has been thinking for years about how to best use this time to build trust and routines.

Alban Mazrekaj is the Lead Product Manager at NZZ, responsible for the ‘Discover' mission, i.e. the part of the subscription journey from the first contact with the brand, through and , which should then lead to subscription.

In the podcast, he reveals which actions have the greatest effect on propensity to subscribe and the role that personalization algorithms play in this.

Here are four things you can learn from the NZZ:

1. Four Mission Teams along the Subscriber Journey

The NZZ works in four cross-functional mission teams that are organized along the subscriber journey: Discover, Subscribe, Engage and Delve deeper.

So the first step is to create a positive first contact with the NZZ for as many people as possible, then to bring them closer to the brand through registrations, podcasts and newsletters  convert them to a subscription and finally build loyalty and increase through additional offers and upgrades such as the premium subscription “PRO Global”.

The missions are intended to break down silos and bring product, design, technology, marketing, and teams closely together. Each mission consists of a core team from three disciplines (product, design, technology), which draws support from adjacent teams depending on the project.

Aligning the customer journey means that there are clear responsibilities and each team has KPIs that are easy to measure. But Alban also sees challenges in that users are not accompanied from start to finish and there are sometimes dependencies between teams that make the work more difficult.

That's why he's currently working on revising the team structure as part of his leadership program at Columbia University. Because, just like product development, organizational development should be driven forward iteratively and learnings implemented efficiently.

2. From registration to subscription

Alban's team is responsible for discovery, which roughly means from the first contact with the brand to registration and subsequent onboarding.

They are currently experimenting with registration walls and when this makes more sense than a to build up a pool of interested users.

After registration, he considers the first 100 days to be crucial, because if you don't take out a subscription by then, in most cases you won't do so again.

The most important product to get started with is the daily NZZ Briefing. Readers receive this automatically after registering and it is designed to build a habit of reading NZZ journalism.

But it is also important for them to ensure that their offerings are used as widely as possible. That's why podcasts and videos are also recommended to registered readers, even if they are usually available for free. It's about building a relationship with the brand in a variety of ways, developing loyalty and trust.

3. Using personalization to combat the filter bubble

Personalization plays a major role on NZZ, especially in the , “My NZZ”, and in reading recommendations below articles.

However, one should pay attention to the users' needs and concerns. They fear missing out on important topics because they don't match their profile or because they sink deeper and deeper into their own bubble.

That's why the personalized NZZ products are designed so that you always see the most important news whilst also getting targeted inspiration for topics that broaden your horizons.

To do this, the internal data team develops models based, for example, on users with similar profiles.

The homepage and the NZZ Briefing are not yet personalized. Alban hasn't ruled this out, but they would like to use more editorial expertise in this area and curate topics that are relevant to readers.

He generally sees personalization as a  rather than acquisition tool. On the one hand, the data to give good recommendations is (still) missing at the acquisition moment, but on the other hand, the reading recommendations are only valuable if you have a subscription in order to access the articles.

4. Develop new markets with verticals

NZZ, for example, has set up verticals with “Planet A” for climate journalism and “Well-Being” to attract users in new subject areas.

The verticals often start with a newsletter or podcast, but are then expanded to other areas.

They are managed by editors who serve as the face of the brand and work closely with the product team. This is also one of the big differences to departments, because verticals can work like small startups within the company, pursuing their own goals and being developed by cross-functional teams.

Even if the verticals open up new topics, they must always have a connection to the core product, because only then can readers be transferred to the core subscription. Depending on how much they already offer for these target groups, Alban recommends different strategies.

What he advises against: cheap subscriptions for individual verticals. They should continue to contribute to the core business and not shift the focus away from the normal NZZ subscription.

Find more of Lennart's work on Subscribe Now.