Driving a 57% uplift in subscriptions by personalising the acquisition flow

The background

Started in 1968, New York magazine is a strong voice in American media, known for detailed news, cultural understanding, and city life.

New York magazine came to us wanting to improve their online newspaper acquisition journey and increase their subscriber base in a competitive market. Although many people read articles, only a small number engaged with the paywall once their free article quota ended.

The ambition

Since customers weren't interacting much with the paywall, our main focus was to figure out why.

After studying how users were using (navigating) the website, we found a main problem: the paywall and subscription landing page were the same for everyone and didn't feel personal. This made users frustrated and uninterested because their interests weren't considered, and the subscription value prop (value proposition) didn’t feel meaningful to them.

When users showed an interest in certain authors, stories, or parts of the magazine, New York magazine didn't use that information to make their experience better.

Key goals:

  • Increase subscription wall CTR
  • Increase subscriptions
  • Decrease churn
Our approach

We crafted a personalisation strategy prioritising the acquisition flow. We wanted the key screens in the acquisition funnel to feel personal to each user, increasing their likelihood to progress and subscribe.

We first changed how the paywall headline looked. Moving away from a one-size-fits-all headline to a personalised title that matched the article the user was reading.

We changed "Continue reading your article with a New York subscription," to "Continue reading <<Article title>> by <<Article Author>> with a New York subscription." e.g. "Continue reading Infowars Is Finally Broke by Matt Steb with a New York subscription."

This change made the paywall much more compelling for users, increasing paywall CTR by 15% and overall subscription conversion rate by 9%.

Encouraged by the positive results, we explored other ways to make the paywall more appealing. From testing with other large media clients we knew that showing a preview of the subscription pack was a powerful nudge to encourage users to continue down the acquisition funnel. This proved successful for New York magazine, boosting the number of people who subscribed by 10% and increasing Annual + Print subscription rates by 78%.

Finally, we explored whether changing the style, branding, and unique selling points (USPs) on the paywall and subscription landing page would impact users' likelihood to subscribe. Instead of using the generic overarching New York magazine brand and USPs, we matched the paywall style and USPs to the magazine that users were reading. We also enhanced the subscription landing page to incorporate users' preferred magazine style and USPs.

Instead of using a generic paywall for users reading a Vulture TV recap article, we personalised the paywall to use the Vulture colour scheme, fonts, and logos. This personalisation was carried through to the subscription landing page, with additional Vulture specific USPs.

This change was extremely well received by New York magazine readers, resulting in a 3% uptick in paywall clicks. More impressively, it significantly increased subscription conversion rate, driving a 17% increase in overall subscriptions.

“Daydot enabled us to fast-track our experimentation program, and deliver measurable growth in a very short space of time.”
Michael Doss, Digital Experimentation Director, New York Magazine, Vox Media
The results

Through data-driven experimentation centred on personalising the acquisition flow, we are able to significantly boost subscription rates in a short 12 month period. Adopting an agile test-and-learn philosophy we ran 30+ tests in the first year, crafting a personalised subscription flow that grew New York magazine’s subscriber base.

  • 57% uplift in subscription conversion rate
  • 130% reduction in accidental churn
  • 1,000% ROI in just 12 months
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