Newspapers large and small are pursuing business transformation to foster a sustainable, digital-first future. Growing reader revenue, principally through subscriptions, is a critical part of this path forward. That’s why Local Media Association has partnered with the Google News Initiative and FTI Consulting on the GNI Subscriptions Lab, an intensive, nine-month program that works with publishers to build a long-term reader revenue roadmap and achieve concrete, short-term wins. Ten publishers were selected to participate, representing a diverse cross-section of the local media industry in North America, with a mix of corporate-owned and independent community and metro titles. Each is at a different point on the digital subscriptions maturity curve.

This is the first of several reports from LMA, GNI and FTI Consulting detailing the work of the Subscriptions Lab, and the specific insights and actions that it is generating. The recently-completed initial phase of the Lab conducted extensive benchmarking across all stages of each publisher’s digital subscriptions stack. This enabled participants to understand the critical levers that impact their digital subscriptions success, and then identify the appropriate short-term improvement opportunities and long-term transformation ideas to accelerate their growth. 

The report highlights 10 subscriptions metrics – spanning the full subscriber journey – that impact growth and sustained success. For each KPI, we define what the metric is, where it exists within the subscriptions journey, and why it is important. We then plot the range of performance of the Subscriptions Lab cohort for that metric, and also provide an industry goal. In several instances, publisher case studies showcase Subscriptions Lab participants with strong performance in a specific area. 

 Highlights from the report include:

  •  At the top of the audience funnel, visit frequency per unique visitor is an important engagement metric on the path to subscription conversion, with two or more visits per month serving as the industry standard. Also critical is visits per known unique visitor. One Subscriptions Lab publisher has shifted its strategy to focus on loyal, engaged readers, driving 9.2x more page views per month from known users than anonymous users.
  • Meter stop rate is an important indicator of engaged, qualified traffic into the conversion funnel, measuring the percentage of site visitors who are asked to subscribe. It is a reflection of both paywall tightness and audience engagement, and depending on how many users are “stopped,” can also influence paid stop conversion rate and payflow efficiency. Subscriptions Lab MSR varies widely from just over one percent to nearly 25 percent.
  • Creating a delightful customer experience can accelerate digital subscriptions growth. With the majority of traffic and visits coming from mobile devices, page speed is a top metric to evaluate customer experiience. The Southeast Missourian limits usage of third-party tools while creating an ad-light premium subscriber experience to enhance page speed.

LMA’s work with the GNI Subs Lab is part of Accelerate Local, committed to reinventing business models for news.

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