Which subscription calls-to-action work best in converting readers to subscriptions

LinkedIn tweaks its algorithms to emphasise professional and personal network content

I am traveling in the US so the normal schedule will be a bit abnormal through next week before I take a couple of weeks off. This week, there was a lot of movement both in terms of paid content and also the newsletter scene.

We start off with a bit of research in the UK about the types of calls to action that work in convincing people to pay for a subscription. The research carried out by Dr Neil Thurman of City University in London and Dr Bartosz Wilczek and Ina Schulte-Uentrop of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München surveyed 815 people in the UK.

The research tested four messages about why a person would subscribe to a newspaper that they liked:

  • a ‘normative’ message that leaned into the idea of supporting independent journalis.

  • a ‘price transparency’ message about the precarious finances of journalism

  • a value proposition message about the exclusive content that people could get from buying a digital subscription

  • a social message about being a part of a community.

No individual message would produce a ‘significant amount’ of subscribers, but a combination of two messages - the normative and price transparency appeals and a combination of price transprency, value proposition and social messages did produce a significant result.

This is important work considering the low rate of subscription adoption in the UK. According to the most recent Reuters Institute Digital News report. Only 9% of people in the UK had paid for news online in the past year, as opposed to 21% in the US or 39% of people in Norway.

Major UK national-regional publisher Reach has tried a number of subscription strategies in the past few years, with none of them really delivering the results that the group wanted. But now they are testing a metered paywall for the MEN app. We - being Pugpig - will be watching closely because we have built a lot of Reach’s apps.

The tech majors have moved away from third-party cookies as user privacy has become a selling point, and publishers and broadcasters have moved to first-party data solutions because it means it is much more valuable than third-party data so there has been a push and a pull. The question hasn’t been about the why but about the how.

Like so many strategic efforts, you have to get executive-level buyin. After that, it’s really all about execution including making sure to ask the right questions from providers and still understanding that third-party data has a place as part of your audience funnel.

The Online News Association in the US is having a newsletter how-to session packed with smart folks from the Wall Street Journal. It will include how to measure success and grow your newsletters.

In another piece of research out of the UK, the News Futures 2035 project has released a report into its findings. The more than 300 experts have been looking at ways to build a more sustainable future for public increase news (rather than simply news that the public is interested in). Reading between the lines, the political orientations of the publishers in the UK make it difficult if not impossible to find a way forward on policy an regulation.

Google has joined Meta have now adopted a common front in the face of regulation in Canada that would require them to pay publishers for linking to their content. With passage of the Online News Act C-18 in Canada, it will mean that Canadian news content will disappear from Google Search, News and Discovery. If figures in Canada are the same as elsewhere, this could put about a third of their referral traffic that news organisations get from search in peril.

For professional and business content, LinkedIn can be a valuable platform for publishers, and they have just tweaked their algorithms. During the pandemic, users said that their feeds were flooded with “Facebook-styel” personal content. As they de-prioritise this content, they will also emphasise content from first-degree connections.

The podcast market definitely seems to be cooling, and the latest example is US satellite radio service Sirius XM deciding to shut down the Stitcher podcast app. I’m personally sad because I was a heavy user in the eight years that we lived in the States. It’s app was integrated into my Mazda’s car entertainment system, and it had a really good discovery service. However, I can see why it ran counter to Sirius XM’s business model, and the company will move podcasting content into its main satellite radio app. And that makes a lot of sense because most people only use a handful of apps frequently. Having two apps simply didn’t make any sense.