‘Distinctive journalism’ is key in persuading NZME’s print subscribers to take up the opportunity of digital access.
Subscriber revenue general manager Carolyn Adams says the New Zealand publisher had launched its ‘NZ Herald Premium’ digital subscriptions programme in April 2019, with one aim to retain print subscribers by getting them to activate their digital subscriptions.
A two-pronged approach sought to get full-week subscribers to unlock complimentary premium digital access, and to encourage “part-print” subscribers to upgrade to a print/digital bundle.
“Success was measured by the number of print subscribers who activated, the number upgrading to a print/digital bundle, and the reduction in newspaper subscriber cancellations,” she says in an INMA blog.
More than 20,000 newspaper subscribers activated their digital subscriptions by the end of 2019, indicating that NZ Herald Premium was poised for growth, with research and trend analysis confirming that the single biggest factor driving subscriptions was “distinctive journalism”.
“It was why NZME invested heavily in boosting core journalism resources and new partnerships offering diverse content and storytelling,” she says.
The objective of activating 40 per cent of the group by the end of 2020 increased the value they got from their print subscription, and reduced the likelihood of cancellation, as well as starting their transition to a digital-only future.
“With subscriber retention fundamental to growth, a campaign to activate print subscribers used a multichannel approach including direct mail, email, outbound calling, editorial messaging, targeted Facebook ads and newspaper ads.
“We developed a promotion to target subscribers who got the newspaper only a few days a week, inviting them to upgrade to a print/digital bundle for a special price of NZ$1 per week. The objective was to reduce the number of part-print subscribers by ten per cent.”
A promotion bundling a free trial of the newspaper with digital access set the stage for those readers who purchased a print subscription to be more likely to use digital.
Because NZME's quality journalism drives subscriptions, the newsroom played a key role in the strategy (pictured from left) head of content Murray Kirkness, managing editor Shayne Currie, and premium content editor Miriyana Alexander).
Minimising subscriber losses was paramount to the preservation of a core group of print subscribers. “While we expected a degree of print subscription cannibalisation as we ramped up the Herald Premium campaign, we expected the increased value of a subscription would retain subscribers,” says Adams.
“When we launched Premium, we were aware that paid digital subscriptions could rile our print audience, causing them to cancel their print subscription and move to digital only.
“Turns out we had little to worry about and much to celebrate as our retention initiatives far exceeded expectations.”
Some 50 per cent of all eligible NZ Herald print subscribers were successfully activated, eclipsing a 40 per cent target for the year-end. “The spectacular success of our strategy stems from adding free digital access as part of a print trial and integrating multichannel activation messages to print subscribers,” she says.
A campaign to upgrade part week print subscribers – those buying fewer than five days a week – to a bundled subscription exceeded target, with more than 11 per cent of subscribers upgraded.
Engagement statistics showed that print subscribers had impressive digital engagement – with the majority in the highest digital engagement segment – again helping increase the value they placed on their subscription.
“As more subscribers activated their digital entitlement, or upgraded to a bundle, an eight per cent YOY decline in print subscription cancellations occurred, reflecting the success of integrating digital activation messaging into our customer journeys.
“In just 20 months, our subscriber penetration rate – the proportion of subscribers compared to nzherald.co.nz audience – reached almost five per cent, significantly higher than industry benchmarks of 2-4 per cent, based on studies by FTI Consulting and Mather Economics.
“The biggest learning from this campaign is that subscribers don’t cancel print to move to digital,” she says. “Not only that, but retention benefits also exist for print subscribers. We will continue to activate print subscribers to improve our print retention rates.”