“It’s a simple formula,” Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, a Financial Times division, said. “We create great content, then we drive engagement with that content and then we monetize the engagement. We work very hard not to overcomplicate it. Everything feeds into that formula.”
After listening to Fink deliver a SIPA webinar on Cornerstones of a Successful Subscription Business Thursday, I can most assuredly say that at Money-Media there is no resting on your laurels. Or anything else. Renewals are close to 100%, yet they’re still working it.
“Renewals are critical,” Fink said. “You have to remind people why they bought [the subscription] to begin with. Restate your value proposition—99% of the renewal decision is based on engagement of that user… It’s critical to onboard new subscribers successfully. Make sure they can easily log in. And if they haven’t accessed anything or they’re not receiving your news alerts, you’ve got a problem.
“We use different levels of analysis to look at every subscription we have. Are there any at-risk subscriptions? [If so,] we need to increase engagement to reduce that risk. You have to communicate regularly [with your subscribers]. For each company that subscribes, they have an administrator who we send a report that we generate. ‘Here’s how many users you have—we want that number to keep going up. Here are your top 10 users. Here are the top 10 headlines people are reading across your company.’ We do this every quarter.”
Here are other highlights from Fink’s webinar, which will soon be available on-demand to SIPA and media division members shortly.
This is a good time. “Subscriptions have reverse correlation to economic downturns,” Fink said. “When the going gets tough,” people still cling to their subscriptions. “Society has acknowledged that good journalism is expensive to produce; people are recognizing the need to support high-quality journalism. It’s a simple and straightforward business model. There are very few third parties in the value chain along the way.”
Define your audience. “Make sure you can clearly define your audience in a way that they are identifiable and reachable. For Money-Media, one of our core [audiences] is the asset management industry—retail investment managers, institutional investors, intermediaries in this industry. We’re going to serve people in those specific sectors.”
Know your value proposition. It has to resonate with the audience, and being unique or proprietary works best.
Make your content “simply better.” “Maybe it’s more accurate or more timely. For our Health Payer Specialist, we announced its launch one week before the pandemic became a real thing in the U.S. We converted a beta test into a full-fledged product with a paywall and subscription fee. It proved surprisingly successful… Our news is very specifically dedicated to that audience. The way we write, our coverage, and what we’re not covering makes our product better [in this case] for health insurance providers.
Your paywall has to be aligned with your value proposition and audience. “We use a walled garden where no content is accessible outside the garden,” Fink said. “They can get a tour of the garden but that’s it.” He admitted that it’s pretty severe in this age, but it reflects the confidence they have in their content. Fink called the paywall where access must be paid for special content a “VIP lounge.” And the third and perhaps most popular paywall is the volume meter, where you get access to a certain number of articles a month.
Is your content helping your readers do their job better? “Producing great content is not cheap,” Fink said. “It has to keep people reading and really engaged. It’s helpful to have a clear mission. How does your product affect your audience? At Money-Media our mission is helping our readers do their job better. We’re all pretty much B2B, targeting very specific sectors. That [mission] gets used by us on a daily basis. Maybe they’re interested, but does it affect their success level in their business?”
How do you know if the content you’re producing is great? Audience engagement. “The ultimate measure of quality content is about engagement. ‘Is it great in the eyes of the audience I’ve identified?’ We track everything. It’s very easy to look at clicks, but you have to go deeper than that. We’re looking at page time spent. Most clicks don’t equal aggregate page time. Did they scroll down? Did they share it with colleagues? Did they post it in social media? Did they come back? Even page time is not a perfect measure. They could walk away with it open and make a sandwich.”
Ask for renewals early. “Even 30 days in advance is cutting it close,” Fink said. “We start at 90 days. [If they expire,] we might extend service beyond that date. But there has to be a risk of an interruption in service. Renewal time is also a great time to upsell or raise prices. If you have a great product and people are engaging with it, you really need to raise the price. If you can’t do that, you have a content or product problem.”
Again, the webinar will be loaded shortly on the SIPA website.