Media Pioneer Awards – Green Star Media’s subscription success

Media businesses are currently fascinated by how to convert those who consume their online content free of charge into paying customers.  Mr Murdoch allegedly is managing to persuade just over 1% of his registered visitors to pay for his Times Online subscription news service.  The latest Media Pioneer award winner, Green Star Media, achieves an 8% free to paid conversion for readers of its rugby and soccer coaching newsletters, which is pretty impressive.  Andrew Griffiths, MD,  has built the business over 4 years to a turnover of £1.2m, all based on subscriptions, with very little advertising.  His experiences should be of interest to other specialist media owners: here are five key tips from his subscription success:

1. Develop quality content for an underserved group

Green Star Media provide quality coaching materials for rugby and soccer coaches, as newsletters and PDFs.  Many coaches are amateurs and spend just a few years in the role, often while their children are participating.  Green Star commission up-to-date, tried and tested content from top coaches and package as ebooks, PDFs and enewsletters.

2. Repackage content to populate free sites

Green Star re-use content from their paid books for their free e-newsletters and also populate their sites. and with old newsletter content, which drives a substantial audience via SEO.  They spend very little on external marketing.

3. Focus on collecting email addresses

The sites promote their free newsletters with pithy benefits, and the entire focus is on collecting email addresses.  They have built up a database of 80,000 rugby and 250,000 soccer coaches from across the English-speaking world,  50% UK and 25% North America.

4. Create multiple subscription levels

Green Star create many different subscription levels to match individual budgets.  Trial subs start from 97p, and full subs range from £27 for 6 months to £87 pa, depending on the market.  One-off ebooks start from £10.  Lists are carefully segmented, so each sub-group is made an appropriately priced offer.

5. Test long copy emails

Marketing emails are separate from the free coaching newsletters and recipients can opt out.  The emails are predominantly long copy, with succinct benefits, extracts from the newsletters, background on contributors and testimonials from other subscribers.  Andrew sends lots of emails and tests relentlessly to achive his 8% free to paid conversion.

Andrew is keen to cross-promote with other football and rugby related sites through list swaps and affiliate deals.  Get in touch with him via

The Media Pioneer awards are run in conjunction with the Specialist Media Show and InPublishing.  They celebrate entrepreneurial and innovative thinking by specialist media businesses across print, events and digital.  The overall winners will be announced at the 2011 Specialist Media Show on 11 May 2011.  If you know a business that deserves to be nominated, please contact me with more details.

About the author: Carolyn  Morgan runs Penmaen Media, a consultancy advising media owners on how to profit from digital media and marketing. She is also content director for the Specialist Media Show. If you’d like an informal discussion about how you can develop new revenue sources for your specialist media business please contact Penmaen Media for a chat.