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The Telegraph’s subscriber experience: A lever to accelerate growth

Editors note: We are republishing an article that looks into The Telegraph’s subscription growth. This piece was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.

Zuora, the Californian-based enterprise software company specializing in subscription management services, recently held a Subscription Experience Event looking at the latest developments and strategies in subscriptions.

The event played out through a virtual keynote and an afternoon of tailored breakouts on usership and subscription business models—acquiring new subscribers, growing recurring revenue, reducing churn and more.

Of particular interest to WNIP was the session featuring Lise-Ann Brennan, Head of Delivery – Subscriptions at The Telegraph, the British national daily newspaper and online news portal. Brennan’s role involves looking after the ongoing development of how the Telegraph’s tech team can support an organic and evolving growth for their subscription base, with adaptive and innovative ways to support their business.

Here are the key takeaways as well as the video link for anyone interested in watching the entire session.

How did The Telegraph protect and adapt their userbase in this challenging time?

  • Prior to the lockdown, there was the challenge of supporting traditional readership paper subscribers while the industry heads into a digital-focused future. When lockdown hit, the pressure dialed up. The Telegraph’s traditional subscriber base wouldn’t necessarily be able to go out and get a paper anymore. The team had to enable the current userbase to access the content they would normally access by traditional means through a new digital platform, which was challenging for some users. Thankfully, because of all the work The Telegraph had been doing behind the scenes to prepare for a digital future, there was a strong foundation to build on.
  • A big challenge for the Telegraph was making sure the quality of the content was protected, yet simultaneously making the access smooth and enjoyable – enabling The Telegraph to protect its userbase whilst also encouraging people to convert from registrants to subscribers.
  • The pandemic offered a new opportunity for the Telegraph. The title had been very strong during the Brexit process, but this was coming to a conclusion near the time the pandemic arrived. With the quality of its journalists, and the accompanying Covid-19 coverage, high levels of readership continued post-Brexit.
  • The Telegraph also needed to focus on journalists adapting to working from home, and also allowing consumers to engage in media in different ways.

How does the Telegraph work with internal teams to make sure the shift is effective and keep working effectively?

  • Bravery and courage amongst leadership has been a key driver. Having the push to make a decision and see how it plays out has led the Telegraph to some of its greatest successes. This requires trust across the rest of the business in collaborating.
  • It has been helpful to have all of the various teams and stakeholders included in conversations very early on, so they feel that their opinions matter and are heard. This meant that when significant changes have had to be made, they feel they are part of that process. This enables senior management to deal with challenges quickly and with the support of the whole team.
  •  The tech teams often see a lot more than other teams do, so their role becomes a critical friend. If a strategy or initiative may not have been fully thought through, it’s important that the tech team has the ability to work with other teams in the correct way – helping them to understand that the tech team are there to use their experience to shorten the time to think things through, and provide advice to teams across the business. Many people are adapting at the moment, and this ensures that momentum remains behind delivery.

What’s next on the journey?

  • There are two strings to The Telegraph’s subscription model – the initial subscriber acquisition, but also how that acquisition journey can be as smooth as possible, to make it as easy as possible for people to access articles. The Telegraph is now looking at its long-term strategy and new untapped markets.
  • The Telegraph gets a lot of engagement from its Snapchat channel, and the title has now been looking hard at the student market. The news product there has done really well, so the team are experimenting to find the right subscription model for this and similar audiences.
  • The Telegraph is continuing to see an increasing number of subscribers join and is studying how its users want to consume the content. Users need to feel like their subscription is part of their lifestyle, and The Telegraph have put a lot of focus on how they can personalize journeys, and also give people the opportunity to feedback.
  • The Telegraph understands that people have the right to say,  ‘right now this subscription is not for me’, and take a break from their subscription. If that cancellation journey is made unpleasant, people have had a bitter experience and won’t ever return. The Telegraph wants to engage and recognize users who choose to return, and allow people to easily dial up and dial down to suit their needs.

More From The Fix: Media subscriptions predictions and the “end of history” mistake

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash


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