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User loyalty through subscription: the benefits for publishers

Luca Filigheddu

In recent years, the world of online publishing experienced a profound transformation, moving from a model based exclusively on advertising to a model focused on monetization through subscriptions as well.

This new approach should be considered complementary, not a substitute for classic advertising. It allows publishers to generate constant and predictable revenue, improving economic sustainability and increasing user loyalty.

First of all, what is a subscription for online newspapers? Simply put, a paid subscription lets users access content from a publisher’s website. This content can be articles, videos, podcasts, e-books and other exclusive materials available only to subscribers.

Subscription is a great opportunity for publishers because it allows them to monetize their content and get a constant revenue stream. Furthermore, subscriptions help  build a loyal community of users, who appreciate the site’s content and are willing to pay to access it, also interacting and commenting on social networks, becoming de facto the first ambassadors of the publication.


How and why you should activate a subscription

How do you activate a subscription for your online publication? There are several ways to do this, but one of the most common is using a paywall: a virtual barrier that prevents non-subscribers from accessing part or all of the site’s content. Thus, users must register and pay to access restricted content.

Every publisher decides whether all the contents are paid contents and whether this applies to their entire lifetime or whether to set limits and exceptions. 

Here are some classic examples:

  • the general contents of the site are visible to everyone, but the subscription enables in-depth analyses, newsletters, videos, ebooks, dossiers and other special exclusive contents;
  • the first lines of all the articles are readable by anyone, but you must be a subscriber to finish reading them;
  • articles are hidden from the public and visible only to those who have subscribed for a limited period of time, after which they are “unlocked” and can be enjoyed by all.

Another key element to consider is to provide the reader with a multi-channel experience, for example an App where subscribers can read the content from the magazine or newspaper.

App-based subscriptions are very convenient for users, as they can access the publisher’s content wherever they are, using their smartphone or tablet. Additionally, these apps allow the publisher to deliver personalized content and send push notifications to users, to notify them of new content or offers.

However, subscribing via app can imply a few challenges for publishing networks: for example, the publisher will have to pay a commission to the app store platform (such as Apple’s App Store or Google’s Google Play Store) for each subscription made through the application. Furthermore, the publisher must ensure that the app’s user experience is also pleasant and intuitive, otherwise users are likely to cancel their subscription or not renew it, not because of the contents but because of the poor UX of the tool.


How to convince users to subscribe and enhance their loyalty

According to the American Press Institute, more than 90% of publishers use newsletters and email marketing as a strategy to retain subscribers; a similar percentage use analytics to monitor what subscribers read.

86% of them value the interests and behavior of subscribers and study them to offer content that is more and more suited to their tastes and current trends, effectively adapting their editorial plans to the needs of readers.

In fact, there are several effective strategies that publishers can implement to engage and retain their subscribers. Here are some examples:

  • create personalized content for subscribers
  • offer exclusive discounts or promotions to loyal subscribers
  • engage subscribers with polls, quizzes and games
  • provide a smooth and easy to navigate user experience
  • use a dynamic pricing strategy to tailor prices to different user segments
  • provide discounts to those who refer a friend, effectively creating subscription chains

Ultimately, user retention via subscription is an excellent opportunity for publishers. 

However, in order to activate it publishers must be aware that offering quality content is crucial, as well as creating a pleasant and intuitive user experience for subscribers. 

In this way, publishers can build a community of loyal readers and ensure a constant revenue stream over time. PaperlLit is a company specialized in helping publishers understand the most innovative ways of monetizing digital properties: contact us for any questions!