Specialist subscription insights at PPA IndPub

Specialist subscription insights

Most specialist publishers are keen to grow subscription revenues, so the session I moderated at PPA IndPub was very popular. We heard from Joanna Edwards, Marketing Director at FT Specialist, Zamir Walimohamid, Head of Digital at Motor Sport Magazine and Mark Beard, CEO of Prospect Publishing.

They shared specialist subscription insights and practical tips for all stages of the subs marketing funnel.

Topping up your subs funnel

Who are your future subscribers? Are there new segments who may become interested in your content? How are you reaching out to them?

Prospect researched their current and prospective audience and decided that a podcast was their best route to reaching new audiences and building awareness. It generates advertising and promotes subscriptions directly. This may not be the answer for every market.
Motor Sport has used Readly and Apple News to reach a wider group of readers.
Investors Chronicle are looking at how to appeal to beginner investors who may consider the magazine too technical.

Subs is a long game, so you may need to be patient.
Starting point is collecting first party data, then using free newsletters to build trust and engagement.

Data is worth the investment

Investing in systems to allow you to have a single customer view is worth the trouble.

FT Specialist now have all their titles on one system so they can see which customers are engaged with multiple products or events and target cross-sell offers. B2B subscribers may be satisfied with just a few report downloads a year, each market is different, it’s not just about reading online articles weekly.
Motor Sport invested in upgrading data quality before increasing prices.

Every little helps with subs conversion and retention.

Make every step easier for prospective subscribers.

Motor Sport have improved the user journey for subscriber conversions, reducing the number of steps.
FT Specialist use automation to set up a welcome series for new subscribers. And identify segments for conversion from free to paid subs.
Prospect are moving away from direct debit (too easy to cancel) to credit cards – with continuous credit authority to avoid disruption when cards expire.

Growing ARPU in niche markets

Is there an enthusiast or premium segment who might pay more for an enhanced package?
Investors Chronicle has an “alpha” subscription (+30% more) which includes exclusive content. Also testing courses on “investing basics” on a pay as you go basis.
Think broadly in terms of the additional services you can offer: digital tools, courses, events, training, not just content.

Digital transformation – avoiding the pitfalls

Mark Beard is now on his third digital transformation, taking Prospect from a print magazine to a digital media brand. Some top tips:

  • Have a dedicated transformation project lead
  • Prioritise features ruthlessly
  • Obtain multiple quotes for outsourced work
  • Shoot for excellence for things that really matter…
  • …But good is good enough for marginal features that will not be noticed
  • Find some quick wins to boost team morale

Growing subscriptions revenue

Specialist publishers need to work on building a strong registered base of prospective subscribers, invest in data, and ensure a smooth customer journey. Each market and audience segment may have different needs, so measures and marketing messages need to be tailored.

If you’d like to discuss how you can grow your subscriptions revenue do please get in touch for an introductory chat over a real or virtual coffee.

To share your successes (and cautionary tales) with your peers, request to join the Speciall Media Group, a community of over 250 publishers run by Carolyn Morgan on Guild. It’s free (for now) but invite only.

About the author

Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.

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