How you ask counts for a lot, as Sweden’s Expressen found with a redesign of its ‘call to action’ button.
To a recent Facebook Accelerator programme, team members brought a pre-existing trust in data for big decisions, Expressen premium editor Helena Sund says in an INMA blog.
Six-square-metre screens by the news desk, personalised dashboards for each editorial department, real-time updates, and weekly, monthly and annual analysis reports are all part of the data picture for the national newspaper which has 5.4 million visitors a week. With digital subscription services launched with a freemium model in 2018, a data-driven strategy has played a big part in growth from 0 to 125,000 paid digital subscribers in two-and-a-half years.
“In our cross-functional team where marketing, tech, editorial and analytics were all represented, we expected we needed to take great strides and make big changes to see results,” says Sund of the Accelerator programme. “Instead, we found greatness in small details.”
A first challenge was thinking of agile tests that could be done quickly without involving too many people in the organisation – something that could slow down work. “No major tech changes that took several iterations to improve; no larger strategic decisions that would require board or editorial management approval.”
The ideas piled up as the team were guided to learn more about their subscribers by looking at the data. “For instance, we noticed that our churned subscribers were still very active on our site – as active and engaged as our app users, actually,” she says.
“We created a test to see if we could bring those churned subscribers back by targeting them through our ad system on-site, but it was unsuccessful. However the idea of making those former subscribers – who were obviously still very interested in our news and stayed on our site reading our free articles – subscribers again lingered.”
The next test – inspired by learnings in behavioural economics – was presenting churned subscribers with an opportunity to return to premium subscription at a discounted price, but for a longer period of time. Hopes were high when an A/B/C-test was sent out with one, two or three offers to choose between, thinking that the choice between payment every three, six, or 12 months would bring more of our former subscribers back.
The result? “Honestly, we’re not quite sure,” says Sund. “Although it seems like being able to choose between three different discounts made more former subscribers take the offer, the tracking wasn’t working properly and the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.”
Trying something they were 100 per cent sure they could track, “something we could see clearly if it was a hit or a miss”, led to the tweaking of the CTA button previously added to the news app and mobile site and asking readers to simply ‘Buy Premium’ had performed well. For desktop users however, the existing button blended into the editorial content, making the actual call to action less clear.
Simply making the button big, bright, red and less wordy delivered an immediate, trackable – and positive result. “After a few weeks, the data confirmed the trend we could see only hours after switching the design: a 2.7-times increase in traffic and a 2.3-times increase in conversion from that CTA button.”
Sund says part of the effect can be attributed to the button being perceived as something new that catches the eye, but even six weeks after the beginning of the test, the strong trend stays.
Strengthened by these results, small-scale testing is continuing. “Currently, we are experimenting with push notifications aimed at subscribers. What time of day, which subject, and what form gives the best open rate, read articles, and read minutes? Our data sample is yet too small to say, but we are hoping these tests will be one more small change that leads to great results.”
The Audience Analytics Accelerator programme is a joint initiative between Facebook and INMA, funded and organised by the Facebook Journalism Project. Each programme includes a three-month period of hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, grants administered by non-profit journalism organisations, and regular reports on best business practices.
Main photo Anna-Karin Nilsson.