No silver bullet, INMA's London subs delegates find

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Surveying participants in its Media Subscriptions Summit in London, INMA says the freemium model has emerged as the most popular choice for publishers.

Some 230 delegates from 33 countries took part in the event at Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf, with 15 global best-in-class case studies featured.

A two-day study tour also visited The Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Financial Times, Immediate Media and Sky Media.
INMA executive director Earl Wilkinson says the group found the biggest indicators of digital subscription over-performance were the adoption of a clear growth mission, a unified company-wise approach, deep knowledge or strong hypothesis about valuable audience segments and a membership mindset as the foundation on which subscriptions can be built.

"The companies succeeding the most have undergone a complete transformation to focus on a core value proposition, brand, communications, effective content, products, pay methods and customer excellence."
The survey of summit participants unveiled clear directions by publishers:

Looking to change models: Roughly 41 per cent of survey participants are unhappy with their paid content model, while 34 per cent say their model has met expectations and 25 per cent say it has exceeded expectations. Two-thirds of survey participants are looking to switch models, while 76 per cent are looking to add new features to their pay model. Personalisation across both freemium and metered models represents a rising focus, with market leaders being Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) in Switzerland and Aftenposten in Norway.

Freemium satisfaction: The freemium model represented 54 per cent of paid models among survey participants - and the highest levels of satisfaction, with 80 per cent and 82 per cent of minor and major freemium lock-down model participants, respectively, reporting freemium either met or exceeded expectations.

Metered dissatisfaction: Few publishers are reporting satisfaction with meters. While 34 per cent of survey participants use a metered model, the performance of that model falls below expectations both for porous meter users (57 per cent) and strict meter users (75 per cent). The porous metered model represents the most chaotic responses: Some 29 per cent of survey respondents said their porous metered model has exceeded expectations, while 57 per cent said it performed below expectations. Overall, it is emerging that those publishers who are reporting success with metered access are those specialised or highly focused brands.

Digital subscriber churn, meanwhile, remains a challenge for publishers. Some 46 per cent of survey participants said that digital subscriber churn is higher than print subscriber churn - with 19 per cent saying it is much higher. Among common themes to reduce churn include acquiring subscribers the right way the first time, discontinuing discounting, improving engagement, enhancing the brand proposition, and removing credit card renewal friction.

Membership benefits beyond content subscriptions were offered by 47 per cent of INMA survey participants with the most prominent being exclusive talks, retailer discounts, live entertainment, movie tickets, free small electronic devices, and sports tickets.

INMA will include the survey data with a report from the week-long summit and study tour.

"What was re-enforced at the INMA London summit is that there is no one single digital subscription model that matches the context across all media companies serving all markets," Wilkinson says. "As we all get smarter about content economics, we now see that was a flaw from the past two decades - the belief in a silver bullet.

"Instead, careful thought needs to be given to publication genre, content productivity, brand strengths, corporate and people assets and much more."

INMA plans its second Media Subscriptions Week in Stockholm from March 18-22, 2019.

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