Debrief: NativeAI at DMNA18 - Digital Subscriptions, Paywalls & more

By Karthik / July 4, 2018

Last week, the NativeAI team was at Digital Media North America 2018 in New York, to meet digital publishers at an event with a laser sharp focus on how online media can drive subscriptions. Organized by WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers), DMNA18 picked a theme that is echoing off the walls of meeting rooms across every major publisher - how to drive revenue from digital readers, the merits of erecting paywalls and managing the whims of the digital advertising duopoly.

Our CEO, Roman Karatchinski and the Product Manager for NativeAI Publisher Analytics, Alex Dzyubenko were on the ground and got to share notes on optimizing conversions using audience intelligence with several Editors, Audience Development and Marketing leaders from companies including NYT,  The Guardian, WSJ, The Street etc.

Top Sessions

One of the most awaited sessions was an in-depth look at two paywall implementations which have a combined subscriber count of over 5Mn. - The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Several valuable insights came to the fore from these two success stories: the structured and heavy role of Analytics, the hybrid adaptive paywall by WSJ, granular segmentation and custom newsletters, multi-channel marketing across social media & offline were all key themes that stood out.

The panel discussion on the importance of digital subscriptions as a strategy for publishers was lively and highlighted that this was increasingly a truism. The broad consensus has moved from "Do we need a paywall?" to "How do we deliver the right content mix, great & relevant stories and a fantastic user experience to our readers, so that they will subscribe?"

Subscriber retention was another popular theme which is gaining priority as churn forecasting is still relatively inaccurate in the digital news subscription model. Further the entry of Google News and Apple News into subscriptions could alter reader preferences. Just this week, we also saw California pass a law that simplified news subscription cancellations among other things.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Content is king - ensure that your stories deliver sufficient value to readers before asking them to pay for it
  2. Collect & Analyse Audience Engagement & Audience Interest Data to iterate and test customized subscription journeys, offerings & campaigns
  3. Think Global to maximize reach - this is especially true for the large publishers such as Guardian which has a sizable chunk of paying supporters in the US and NYT which claims more paying subscribers from Canada than any Canadian publisher!
  4. Upgrade the metrics you use to optimize conversions - Audience Engagement Quality instead of traffic volume, Total User Value instead of number of visits etc.
  5. Retention of subscribers - Use a completely data-driven approach with continuous testing and user experience upgrades as well as tailored newsletters and suggested content using Audience Interests

In summary, DMNA18 reaffirmed what we at NativeAI have known for a while - knowing and catering to the specific needs of your readers is the way forward for publishers. Whether you choose subscriptions & paywalls or you aim to optimize ad-revenue or you choose the Guardian model of reader-support should depend on your business objectives, your audience mix and the likelihood of your target audience segments to become paying readers. To win with any of these models, you require deep audience intelligence and editorial analytics.

If you are interested in learning more about using our NLP-powered analytics to optimize digital subscriptions, reach out to us for a customized NativeAI Demo.

Read more about Digital Subscriptions at DMNA18 on the official blog.

Written by Karthik / July 4, 2018