Presenting TownNews’ side of the story were Kate Rodenhaus, Director of Content & Data Programs and Bridget Sibthorp-Moecker, Director of Audience.
Connolly related how the Telegraph Herald found itself in a situation many newspapers have experienced: the challenges of converting to a digital-subscription model without upsetting traditional readers, many of whom are not as digitally savvy as readers in major metro markets.
“People were using various techniques to avoid our existing hard paywall to view content for free,” said Connolly. “We didn’t have a system or the personnel to create and change plans and rates to capture those non-subscribers and others quickly, or even target specific groups of readers with special offers.”
Connolly and his three-member team diligently tried to find a solution, but had multiple touchpoints for readers. More clicks frustrate site visitors and significantly reduce new subscribers. Plus, he learned a hard paywall may help to regain old subscribers, but won’t generate many new digital subscribers.
Then, he discovered iQ Audience+ from TownNews, a scalable, affordable system, which his limited staff could easily manage and, more importantly, solve the newspaper’s problem of people sidestepping its paywall. With iQ Audience+ the paper can identify when someone is using an ad blocker or similar means to access the content for free. During the first three months (October–December 2020) partnering with TownNews, the paywall stop rate increased from 7% to 10%+, which allows Connolly and his team to identify and target those visitors with local ads as well as subscription offers.
During the Editor & Publisher Webinar, Olson, who also manages and analyzes non-subscriber and subscriber data, spoke about the newspaper’s primary goal with the launch of iQ Audience+
“Our goal was somewhat conservative, or 20 new monthly subscribers generated from the paywall,” said Olson. “By the second day, we had more than 30, a total of 134 by the end of the first month, and then 74 during the second month. Our overall goal for 2020 was a 20% increase in digital subscribers. The iQ Audience+ partnership has worked so well, we increased our 2021 goal to a 35% increase.”
According to Rodenhaus iQ Audience+, launched in March 2020, is much more than simply software. The TownNews team partners closely with its customers, providing expert consultation and support when needed.
“We’re confident iQ Audience+ addresses two of the major challenges facing media publishers,” said Rodenhaus. “First, the program was developed to be easily customized because each customer has different goals. Second, integration occurs quickly and even personnel with limited digital experience can easily learn how to use the program.”
Rodenhaus added they were cognizant of newsrooms operating with very limited resources, including staff dedicated to digital operations. She said the feedback has been very positive. Smaller publishers are happy to have a team of experts to answer their questions while larger publishers appreciate the quick launch and easy integration of iQ Audience+.
Sibthorp-Moecker emphasized the importance of creating an active email database and using it to distribute e-newsletters with an incentive to become a subscriber. According to the Boston Globe in an INMA report, the recipient of a free e-newsletter is as much as 10 times more likely to become a paid subscriber.
“Our iQ Audience+ is a dynamic solution, so we are improving and expanding it almost continuously,” said Sibthorp-Moecker. “Our big focus for 2021 is updating the user experience, with a faster workflow and less friction and other nuances to maximize conversions.”
Olson provided an on-target summation to the Webinar. “Reader revenue is everyone’s responsibility at an organization. Everyone has to understand it, own it, know their part in reaching revenue goals. Each member of the staff must help to close the gap between paid print subscribers and paid digital subscribers.”
TownNews equips local media organizations with the digital services and guidance to transform their business models and flourish in the digital age. Our tools and expertise in print, digital, video, OTT, and advertising enable forward-thinking media organizations in dynamic markets to efficiently engage their audiences, increase security and grow revenue.
Fueled by a passion for local media and a 30-year proven track record of success, more than 2,000 news organizations have benefited from the platform and tools we've built specifically for the media industry to thrive.