Find out how to use data and retention to keep your paid subscribers engaged.
May 11, 2023
Growing traffic, ad revenue, and subscribers isn’t a complete solution to sustain publishing. Retention and loyalty are even more critical, especially when you take a long-term view.
Imagine if 50% or more of your current subscribers kept renewing for the next five years? That kind of loyalty is precious. Driving up paid subscriber retention is achievable with the right approach and strategies.
Why should you invest time and resources into retention strategies? After all, investors and management tend to be more impressed with net new subscriber growth numbers. There are three critical reasons why improving subscriber retention should be a priority.
Enhancing customer retention is one of the highest-leverage ways to raise profitability. Harvard Business Review found that “increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.” Better retention could lift profits far more efficiently than almost any other strategy.
That’s not all. Harvard Business Review research also found that customer spending increases over time. The study found that “repeat customers spend more than twice as much in months 24-30 of their relationships than they do in the first six months.” This finding came from apparel ecommerce, but it can apply to today’s digital publishers who increasingly offer multiple subscription tiers and products.
In 2017, the Economist proclaimed: “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
That claim is doubly true in the context of a publishing business. A subscriber who stays with you for a year or two may view hundreds of articles, open countless emails and participate in online events.
All of these interactions mean you will have a far better understanding of your customer's values. Creating new marketing campaigns becomes far easier with this kind of high-quality data.
By obtaining data directly from your customers (i.e., first-party data), you can also quickly improve the relevance of your publishing. For example, you might find out that a handful of columnists and reporters drive the majority of interest from long-term paying subscribers. In that case, it makes sense to look for ways
The digital age encourages short-term thinking. Publishers track clicks, page views, and other metrics by hour, day, week, and month. This type of rapid measurement has value. Yet, overly focusing on short-term success measures can hurt a publishing business's long-term value.
When retention and loyalty become vital priorities, this perspective encourages managers and editorial staff to ask different questions, such as:
First-party data is indispensable for lifting retention. Publishers are collecting some of this data. Every time a subscriber visits your website, and clicks, first-party data covers any information you collect directly from subscribers and website visitors.
Traditional website analytics are just the beginning of first-party data. You can also track comments, content likes, and participation in online events like webinars and live chat rooms. Each interaction from your subscribers gives you a better understanding of what they value and spend their time on.
Use these two strategies to lift subscriber retention quickly once you have a few months of first-party data.
Reviewing this data directly helps retention because you can help subscribers find more content that aligns with their interests. For example, send more sports coverage to sports enthusiasts. By increasing the amount of relevant content and reducing the amount of less relevant content, subscribers will see more value in what you offer.
Increasing the relevance of your publication for subscribers is crucial because it saves time for subscribers. Few of your subscribers have the time or inclination to explore your website thoroughly daily. Curating your website experience for subscribers and customizing emails helps to save time for your subscribers.
Advertisers expect highly granular targeting. If a publisher fails to offer rich targeting options and data, keeping advertisers engaged (and spending) will only get more difficult.
The path to highly targeted advertising for your advertisers ultimately depends on the quality and quantity of first-party data you collect. Start with simple demographic data points like age, gender, and geography. Collecting this data directly from your audience means your data quality will be far better than platforms that rely on guesswork algorithms.
After you have reasonably strong demographic data, don’t stop your first-party data collection efforts. Look for ways to gather data on interests and behaviors. For example, users who check local real estate content and articles daily may be an attractive segment for various brands hungry for homeowners (e.g. furniture, home services, security systems etc).
By collecting better first-party data on your subscribers over time, you’ll be able to sell advertising space far faster and at a higher rate.
The best first-party data comes from highly engaged subscribers who regularly access a publisher’s content. Ideally, you’ll have a range of engagement data, from the basics (e.g., page views and clicks) to high-involvement content (i.e., comments and shares).
If you’re not seeing enough meaningful engagement from your subscribers, there is an easy way to solve that problem: encouragement!
As the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. Instead, use the following tips to encourage subscribers to comment and engage with your publication.
Online events are a powerful way to increase engagement because live experiences have a special appeal. Even if you have an ongoing series of events, each event will stand alone due to the mix of guests, content, and interaction. When you run online events, use Arena Live Chat to make it easy for your audience to ask questions, chat with each other and meet others.
The 80/20 rule applies to online communities. Vice reported that 77% of all Wikipedia articles are written by 1% of its editors. Likewise, the vast majority of online interactions with your audience will likely come from a small share of your audience. When you have top contributors, recognize them with community badges (e.g., “VIP Commenter.”)
The quality of your publication’s content is likely why people come to your publication. Many will stay involved because they meet others who share their interests. Encourage your top community members to celebrate their content. Highlight the week's best comments on your home page and email newsletters.
Sometimes life gets busy, and your active community members might fall out of the habit of contributing to the community. Review your top 10 or 20 community members from 6-12 months. You will probably find a few people who haven’t been active lately.
Once you have that list of formerly active community members, reach out to them.them. Thank them for their past comments, and invite them to return to your community. Showing you care for the subscribers - beyond their subscription payment - is a smart way to keep them contributing.
Getting first-party data from a highly engaged audience isn’t always difficult. Sometimes it is simply a matter of giving your audience a new and easy way to engage with your publication.
Adding Arena Live Chat to your website instantly transforms your website into an interactive experience. Discover how to add a community experience to your publication.