The Washington Post’s impressive digital subscription business — while huge — offers a variety of lessons that publishers of all sizes can learn from.

On the upcoming Local Media Association Innovation Mission in Washington, D.C., attendees will learn about The Post’s data-driven approach to audience engagement and subscriber acquisition. 

We caught up with Rich Handloff, Director of Consumer Marketing at The Post, to learn more about their strategies.

The Post is seen across the industry as a major success story in subscriptions (both digital & multi-platform). What are a couple of pillars of your core strategy that you would highlight as essential to your success? 

Our entire organization is focused on subscriber acquisition. What that means is that while Marketing drives many initiatives to provide opportunities for readers to subscribe our Newsroom and Engineering teams are always looking for ways to provide value. We are obsessed with the consumer experience. This obsession translates itself into top-notch journalism both in terms of investigative reporting, opinions and life-style content. It also means an investment in technology to ensure our stories load as fast as possible and it’s easy to login to our site and apps.

From a marketing acquisition perspective, what approaches / channels have proven most effective in driving digital subscription starts? 

We are focused on getting readers to let us know who they are. The more we know about them the easier it is to ensure we are providing valuable content that they are willing to subscribe. We look for ways for consumers to share their contact information and especially email. Believe it or not, we have a lot of luck with using email as a reminder to subscribe.

With a “global-local” brand like the Post, how do you think about audience segmentation and subscriber personas to ensure that the right prospect is seeing the right subscription message? 

We know that it takes a lot of touch points for a reader become a subscriber. We also know that people are busy and on the move. Our focus is on making the subscription process easy and friction-less so that subscribing is fast, easy and effort-less. We do try to provide subscribers the option of subscribing at key points and emphasize the benefit of access to content on any device at any time.  We do our best to use creative that resonates with the reader based upon their interest but given that people don’t always sign in and don’t always let us know who they are – this is tough.

You’re big on subscriber retention. Are there a couple of retention efforts you would spotlight that have been difference-makers? How do you encourage post-sale engagement to ensure subscriber stickiness? 

First and foremost we focus on ensuring our product is the best it can be and we are always innovating and pushing the limits with technology. We also are investing in our newsroom to ensure we are providing the best content to our subscribers.

From a retention and engagement perspective, it’s our tone. We talk to our subscribers in a way that makes them feel valued and provides value added content. We provide early access to content to our subscribers. In addition, we invite them to on-line chats, webinars and other unique experiences reserved just for subscribers. We don’t assume our subscribers will retain so throughout the organization we are always looking for reasons to appreciate and provide additional value to our subscribers – but it’s mostly through providing an outstanding product.

How is The Post looking to continue to innovate its subscription business in 2019? 

Our focus will continue on growing our subscriber base. We spend time focused on how to provide the best content and experience for our consumers. Ultimately when we focus on the product and the consumer experience the business follows. We know that if we want to be successful we have to provide unique value to our subscribers. We aren’t into massive discounting. We have a premium product and we will continue to invest in the product and the consumer experience.

There is only one spot still open on the D.C. Innovation Mission —
you can save your spot here!