As of January 2021, 4.66 billion people worldwide were actively using the internet. And with global content consumption doubling in 2020, it’s a ripe opportunity for digital publishers to reach more audiences than ever before.
But how do you successfully persuade readers with a varied set of backgrounds and interests to engage with your content? How do you go about understanding your different audiences in detail to know what they’re reading and what they are engaging with? And what is the best approach for creating different types of campaigns for your different audiences?
These were exactly the issues faced by Gulf News, the online English-language publication based in Dubai.
With their readers spending a lot more time at home in 2020 consuming news content, Gulf News saw that they could take advantage of the opportunity to drive a new revenue stream by launching a digital subscription offer. Read on to find out how Piano enabled this publisher to effectively gather insights about its disparate audience and launch appropriate campaigns to convince all users to pay for a digital subscription.
Facing the challenge of a diverse audience
When starting to design their subscription model strategy, Gulf News had a big issue to contend with, particular to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In addition to the fears of launching a paid service, the UAE is home to one of the world’s largest expatriate populations, accounting for approximately 89% of residents. This includes not only expats from all over south Asia, an already culturally diverse region, but residents from Europe, North America and beyond.
With such a disparate audience with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, how exactly could they resonate with both Emiratis and expats from every corner of the globe—and convince them all to pay for content? Address all of these distinct audiences with separate campaigns designed around their desires.
Gathering audience insights to inform tests
With such a varied local and international set of readers, Gulf News needed to establish a complete picture of which user groups they needed to target. Every persona or audience segment has its own specific needs, so it was vital to drill down what motivates all of them to subscribe in order to be successful with the paid launch.
In the six to eight months prior to their subscription launch, they began asking readers to register with their personal details and email address to access upwards of 10 articles. Armed with this zero-party data from their ‘loyal’ audience, they conducted a survey to get feedback on user readiness for a subscription model, how much readers were willing to pay and whether they would embrace a monthly or annual subscription plan.
Gulf News’ editorial team also started analyzing their audience content consumption patterns, like how many articles people were reading a month. They then were able to segment their local and expat readers based on their geographical location and gain an accurate picture of how they were engaging with the site.
Conducting tests to optimize campaign performance
Over the 18 months prior to their subscription model launch, Gulf News’ editorial team used Piano to conduct tests to refine and optimize their strategy for each audience.
A content-first approach
Before working out their pricing, they looked at how readers were engaging with their content and which access model they were going to use. Recognizing that there was no one-size-fits-all solution, they decided to work with Piano’s Composer, which offers the flexibility to offer multiple models that would suit the needs of all audiences.
They kept all content that generated a lot of traffic or that had strong conversion potential available outside the paywall, such as Covid-related articles. All of their longer format content—which tests revealed to be of particular interest to readers—was gated to incentivize them to subscribe.
Varied methodical testing
Gulf News then ran a series of tests across all user touchpoints with the brand to see which user experience (UX) generated more conversions. These involved:
- The messaging and type of language they used throughout the site to encourage readers to convert, as well as the Call To Action (CTA),
- The format and appearance of the content blocks on the different site pages, as well as within the articles themselves and
- The most appropriate color schemes and imagery combinations designed to steer readers towards conversion
For each of these, Gulf News tried two versions for each audience and gradually A/B tested to see which UX was the most effective.
Annual wins over monthly subscriptions
Finally, the publication ran tests on how to approach the monthly vs. annual subscription plan in a price-sensitive market. Expecting that the majority of conversions would be for the monthly plan, 75% of subscribers chose and went for the annual model instead.
The editorial team highlighted the importance of nurturing a trusting relationship with their loyal registered readers as an important driver for annual subscriptions. They were fully transparent with their audience about the subscription process, clearly informing them that they could cancel at any time and wouldn’t be locked into the auto-renewal of their contracts.
Continuing a culture of testing across campaigns
Thanks to Piano, Gulf News consider their subscription model launch to be a resounding success. In a potentially hesitant and disparate market, they’ve been able to effectively hone their customer journeys and create specific campaigns to target their diverse audience.
In addition, subscriptions are likely to increase. Now that Gulf News has started collecting subscriber datasets, they can see precisely how readers are engaging with the content and provide a more personalized approach that includes newsletters and numerous other strategies to keep them on board. The fact that the majority of subscribers are on an annual, auto-renewing plan could lead to lower churn rates down the line.
Moving forward, Gulf News plans to add to their range of products so that customers see the added value from their subscription. They are also planning to implement some strategically priced products to generate more conversions, including a premium offer.
Request a demo to find out how you can work like Gulf News to define, launch and deploy campaigns with Piano, an ally in gathering and activating user insights.