After seeing subscriptions soar in the earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, media companies are now focusing on keeping their current audiences engaged.
When lockdowns and work-from-home arrangements were widespread, there was a massive subscription boom. Publisher subscription revenues climbed 16% in 2020. Stuck inside and socializing less, people replaced watercooler chat with news subscriptions to stay informed. Without social gatherings, they started reading more.
Then, economies began reopening and, as life was returning to normal, subscriptions for many publishers started tracking at a slower rate. Subscriber churn had soared as well, with many of us – myself included – subscribing to a variety of new magazines, newsletters, food delivery services, only to drop off after a month or two. That growth in subscribers is matched with subscriber churn and subscription fatigue.
From top-down funnels to nurtured subscription journeys
Subscription fatigue, which began in the later stages of the pandemic, indicated that people were not only overwhelmed by the amount of offers in their inbox, but also that those offers weren’t necessarily correct for them. As much as my dad might wish, I don’t get enthusiastic about a golf magazine subscription in my inbox, and it’s pretty clear I’m not the only one: 76% of consumers today are annoyed when their interactions with a company aren’t customized to their interests. If your subscribers aren’t getting the kind of experience they want, they’re leaving – and that costs.
Older subscription models may be the culprit here. Shaped more like a funnel, media companies relied on these top-down models of subscriptions to make one-size-fits-all offers – a heavily discounted promo rate, for example – to large groups of potential subscribers, regardless of their interests. Data that could segment and target audiences based on their interest in golf versus an interest in rock climbing or interior design wasn’t something those old funnels were capable of.
First party data has changed the game, and become a priority for publishers who want to take subscribers on a different kind of journey that encourages loyalty, and creates personalized offerings for potential customers that are hard to pass up.
Engagement at every level
There are three main ways that companies can use first party data to develop these nurture journeys so subscribers stick with you, and the right tech combined with first party data is the driving force behind these strategies to combat subscriber fatigue & churn.
1. Relationship building
First, publishers can segment audiences based on interests and behaviors from website visitor data. My dad and I would be interested in different content from one another, and my mom in another audience segment (for gardening) altogether. With that information, publishers can then curate the most relevant content for each of us: Dad gets a golf magazine, I get an e-newsletter subscription to a women’s rock-climbing magazine, and Mom is offered a quarterly gardening newsletter.
In these cases, we’re also all being offered different types of content that speaks to the journey we’ve had on the website. Maybe a reader doesn’t visit the website often, but when they do they prefer longer-form content. This first stage of that nurture journey thus shows the subscriber you know who they are and what kind of content they’re interested in: they’re not going to get an offering out of left field that they’ve not indicated interest in. You’ve begun the process of relationship-building.
We know that personalized calls to action perform about 202% better than generic (or inaccurate) alternatives, so as visitors to a website continue to receive curated, targeted content, they’re more likely to register for a free account, an email reminder, or even sign up for an initial offer.
Because you have personalized content and shown that you know what types of content your readers want to receive, they’re more convinced of your value to them, knowing that they’re getting content they’re actually interested in.
Traditional funnels would remind subscribers to resubscribe before their expiration date. Curating effective nurturing journeys gives media businesses the opportunity to take a more sophisticated and informed approach to reducing the attrition we see near expirations.
For instance, the data has suggested that I live in Colorado and enjoy outdoor sports. If you have tech that can offer a combination package of my rock-climbing e-newsletter with a bicycling magazine three months after I’ve initially subscribed, my subscriber journey has been upgraded and extended.
If a subscription does eventually expire without renewal, the account holder returns to the relationship building stage unless they opt out of receiving future notifications from the publisher.
Even in cases where former subscribers don’t engage with the content again, publishers likely already benefited from curating these subscriber journeys — nurtured audiences spend 47% more.
The creation and maintenance of these kinds of subscriber journeys is only possible if you have tech that can take in, interpret, and work with your first