This case study is also featured in WAN-IFRA’s recent report on digital subscription marketing (free for WAN-IFRA Members). Click here to read the report.
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s leading national daily, succeeded in reaching 245,000 digital subscriptions in a relatively tough media environment.
Most news is still being consumed on web portals with no paywall, there is no home delivery of newspapers, and there is high resistance to paying with a credit card and automatically recurring payments (with people preferring bank transfers and manual payment), explained Danuta Breguła, Director of Subscription Strategy, during WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference.
Owned by Agora, Gazeta Wyborcza was launched in 1989, as the first post-Communist independent daily newspaper, and now features 20 local editions. It is relatively liberal in content – in a country considered conservative and polarised – and reaches some 18 million unique users per month.
Users’ reluctance to recurring payments
In 2015, a year after successfully launching its digital subscription model, subscriptions to Gazeta Wyborcza stopped growing as fast. After conducting surveys, it found that users didn’t necessarily view the need to pay for access as a problem, but the idea of automatically recurring payments (users felt they had no control).
As an immediate fix designed to avoid frequent expirations and massive churn, Gazeta Wyborcza sold long-term subscriptions (annual/quarterly) via bank transfer with a defined expiration date.
“This helped overcome people’s resistance, develop habits, and fuel Gazeta Wyborcza’s growth,” Breguła said.
A vicious cycle
On the downside, this approach turned into a vicious cycle of acquiring subscribers through trial offers and discounts, losing a big share of them once their subscriptions expired, and then having to bring them back using discounts again, thus losing out on revenue.
In December 2018, only 11 % of subscribers had auto-recurring subscriptions.
To increase this share of auto-recurring subscriptions, Gazeta Wyborcza:
- stopped offering free trials (which are great to attract but terrible to retain)
- started testing progressive pricing (a project aimed at finding out what the best combination of pricing, length of the introductory offer, and the number of stages is)
- made recurring payments the users’ best choice (recurring payments were being more heavily promoted, while one-off subscriptions were still available but 30 % more expensive)
- made subscribing more obvious and unavoidable than ever (constantly improved the path to purchase, locked articles in a more intrusive manner)
- engaged loyal subscribers (added a family offer, access to apps, e-reader edition, webinars, podcasts)
- improved the onboarding process (redesigned it to be more user-friendly, flexible and editable so that the retention team could look for the right order of messaging, and run a series of tests every day for different users)
As a result, the share of users with recurring payments grew from 11 % in 2018 to 78 % in June 2020.
“Be persistent, never give up, and don’t be afraid to change course,” Breguła said.