How France’s L’Equipe is turning readers into subscribers

2020-12-07. The website of L’Equipe, a France-based global media company focussed on sports, has 2.4 million daily visitors, and 300,000 subscribers. Nearly all of these subscribers have been brought onboard in the past five years thanks to a customer-centred approach and mandatory registration.

by Brian Veseling | December 7, 2020

L’Equipe is organised around its different formats: a national print newspaper, website, app, and a TV channel. While wanting to maintain print, L’Equipe undertook a transformation initiative to become a subscription-first business, which required a customer-oriented approach.

L’Equipe has a large audience: 2.4 million daily visitors, and 300,000 subscribers. The number of subscribers has increased by a factor of seven in five years, Fleur Lavedan, L’Equipe’s Sales and Customer Marketing Director, told delegates during a presentation at WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media Europe virtual conference.

To help drive subscriptions, their digital offers are promoted across a wide range of channels, including TV, Facebook and Google ads as well as Instagram. They also use the print newspaper to promote digital subscriptions. In addition, their app is a key sales tool with app store sales contributing about 40 percent of subscriptions.

Just before COVID, L’Equipe made an offer that people could subscribe for six months for just 1 euro.

“Our challenge is to transfer a free reader into a subscriber and keep him. For this, we must know the customer,” said Lavedan.

The customer-based approach required a company-wide strategy, Lavedan said, because it can only succeed if all the departments and the newsroom are fully aligned with the philosophy.

All readers must create an account

In order to better serve their customers, they first need to know them. To help do this, L’Equipe requires all readers to create an account.

This account creation has three objectives: 

  • Qualified data
  • Better identity of the usage of future subscribers
  • Personalised content

L’Equipe’s website offers a mix of free content, available to those who register, and paid content, which is available only to subscribers.

Reader data is collected in real-time and shared with all teams through dashboards.

Data, such as the number of times a user visits the website, is used to rate readers and subscribers.

“This technique allows us to grade each reader with a score,” Lavedan said. “A score close to 1 demonstrates the prospect is close to subscribing. We are currently testing this way of scoring to acquire new subscribers and the outcome is really, really positive.”

Turning readers into subscribers

“The quality of our content is key to transforming our readers into subscribers,” Lavedan said.

In 2018, L’Equipe merged its print and digital newsrooms with the aim of creating more paid content. Exclusive paid articles have since increased by 57 percent. 40 percent of L’Equipe’s customer acquisitions are made through paid articles.

L’Equipe also rebuilt its landing page to promote the benefits of subscription and drive more traffic.

Strategies for retaining subscribers

“We must present to subscribers at the beginning of every subscription our full subscription offer so they can quickly realise the value of a subscription to L’Equipe,” Lavedan said.

In the first 20 days, new subscribers receive six emails, or 12 pushes introducing them to exclusive content.

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