Why Publishers Are Betting on Email to Drive Subscriptions

As publishers grapple with the impact of COVID-19 and the decline of third party cookie, they are holding onto a precious life raft: the subscription model.

The New York Times reached $709 million in digital revenue this year, thanks in large part to its subscriptions, and announced its goal to reach 10 million subscriptions by 2025. The Wall Street Journal is using predictive modeling to drive subscriptions. And blogging platform Medium has launched its own subscription publications.

As publishers begin to sell their own products (ie. subscriptions) like a marketer, they’ll need to think like a marketer. And that means they need to start investing in email. In fact, that should be a New Year’s resolution for publishers and retailers: Make subscriptions your main focus and use email to build direct relationships with audiences who turn into paying customers.

Marketers have long understood email to be key to driving purchases. As Forrester found, 89% of marketers say the email address is their most important piece of customer data. People already spend over five hours a day with email, using it as their home base for communicating with coworkers, family, friends, and brands. And email marketing done right can drive 122% ROI.

Now, publishers know email can hold the same power for them.

Email drives subscriptions

In a recent survey of more than 130 publishing executives, Digiday found that “adapting the frequency of email” was the most effective tactic for driving subscriptions. And 46% of respondents said growing subscriptions was a major priority for them in the next half-year.

Digiday also reported that publishers are using email to promote offers to people already in their database. As Shan Wang wrote for Nieman Lab about The Wall Street Journal‘s subscription strategy, “A person willing to hand over an email is also more willing to eventually pay for a subscription.” Publishers are also emailing people about member-exclusive content related to their interests.

Publishers have an opportunity use powerful tools like email personalization, advertising, and retargeting to build their subscriber base and open up a robust, consistent revenue stream for 2020 and beyond.

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If you are looking for new ways to grow your email subscribers, please reach out. We’d love to help