What do you do about the ‘sleepers’ on your website – let them keep paying or risk a cancellation when ‘waked’.
A new report by subscription paywall provider Pianosays ‘sleepers’ – inactive paying subscribers who haven’t visited a site for 30 days – typically account for40 per cent of subscribers on an average subscription website.
The proportion of disengaged subscribers was reduced during the early days of the pandemic when news usage skyrocketed, but the portion has risen steadily since early 2020.
Sleepers churn because they aren’t getting much value from their subscription, but they don’t do so straight away. In any given month, 90 per cent will simply continue to stay inactive, the report says. It’s only when they wake up again and come back that their cancellation rates soar, generally accounting for about 30 per cent of active churn.
Re-engaging sleepers is difficult, with the problem being how to “bring them back into the fold” and wake them up, without prompting them to cancel.
Piano recommends not shaking sleepers awake for anything less than a major news event or “especially appealing content.”
Better is to engage subscribers before they become inactive, building habits so that they don’t fall asleep in the first place. An earlier report found that 60 per cent of sleepers nod off during their first two months as subscribers.
That’s those which have got past the first 24 hours, during which Piano says nearly a third of new subscribers to news publications cancel. This proportion includes subscribers who only wanted access to one article, or who felt the full paid experience was lacking after a quick look around… and reacted against the prospect of auto-renewal.
“It’s not enough to sign someone up and assume they’ll consume your content,” the report says. “You’ll need a thought-out plan using proven tactics to start forming habits early.”
Email newsletters, a welcome letter from the editor, a mobile app download, podcasts, subscription benefits reminders and/or a series of reminder emails over the first week and month are among elements which have proven successful.
The fact that these first-day cancellations are more common among annual subscriptions than monthly ones suggests new subscribers may be using the cancel button as a way to turn off auto-renewal, avoiding the risk of forgetting they’ve signed up. Read the report here.