We asked news publishers to answer, in their own words, these two questions:

  • Is there anything you have changed or implemented recently that made a measurable improvement in subscriber retention?
  • What is the single most effective thing you are doing to help with retention?

The responses were varied of course, but on the whole they cover a range of interesting ideas and include many relatively simple tactics that other publishers might consider adopting.

Here is a list of 31 things that publishers told us was helping them improve retention (download the graphic version here):

  1. In addition to sending an email series to lapsed subscribers, add a direct-mail piece.
  2. Make customer service calls to a subscriber after they are halfway through their grace period.
  3. Send renewal notices to subscribers who have not renewed, with a survey asking the reason for non-renewal.
  4. Encourage new subscribers to sign up for newsletters.
  5. For readers who unsubscribe from or are not interested in a daily newsletter, offer instead a weekly newsletter or alerts for a specific topic.
  6. Launch an exclusive, monthly, members-only newsletter
  7. Update and increase the number of email renewal notices.
  8. Implement automated email messages to users whose credit cards are set to expire or have expired.
  9. Create a set of reduced payment rates that customer service representatives can offer to help save a subscriber who is considering cancellation.
  10. Use existing engagement data to inform rate negotiations for renewals and cancellation win-backs.
  11. Prioritize subscriber retention in your organization by creating a dedicated team focused on it.
  12. Use in-person or virtual events, focus groups and surveys to create ongoing conversations with readers.
  13. Collect subscriber email addresses to send renewals through email, including to existing print subscribers.
  14. Encourage auto-renewals and automatic payments for as many new subscribers as possible, even if they are not buying online.
  15. Communicate the organization’s purpose of helping readers increase their level of awareness.
  16. Organize events to meet our journalists.
  17. For subscribers who have not opened emails in the last 3 months, remove them from the distribution list.
  18. Upgrade our paywall/subscription system.
  19. Use a payment vendor to automatically update credit card numbers when possible.
  20. Send subscribers personalized reading recommendations from reporters and editors.
  21. Engage subscribers with newsletters, and produce more content known to be popular with subscribers.
  22. Add an annual digital subscription option to our checkout page. Longer terms are usually more likely to retain.
  23. Test longer introductory rates (months), which could retain better than shorter term periods (weeks)
  24. Transition subscriptions that are renewed manually to auto-renew.
  25. Decrease the amount of initial discounts, and gradually raise a subscriber’s price from initial discount to full-rate over several periods of small increases to produce a higher, more consistent renewal rate.
  26. Use a paywall to focus on recurring donors and auto-renew subscriptions.
  27. Email series for new subscribers, including information about how to use their subscription and personal welcomes from reporters and editors.
  28. Create an onboarding program that nurtures new subscribers.
  29. Consistently communicate with our subscribers. Listen, and respond. It is extremely valuable, whether it comes in an email, a letter or a phone call. Make them feel special.
  30. Track newsletter engagement and use surveys to develop special events that match current concerns of readers.
  31. Be sure to calculate an accurate churn rate, and get data needed.

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