The Friends and Family group subscribed because they found the publication through their loved ones and, in some cases, saw it as a way to connect with them through the news. The paper, in other words, is part of the social flow of their lives.

The publication may have been something that they grew up with. It may have been something they discovered and discussed around the dinner table. It may be something their peer group of friends is talking about. People may have been reading print copies that belonged to their friends. They also may have been sharing or noticing their friends sharing the paper’s content on social media.

Others were triggered to subscribe by a discussion with friends or family, or say it is extremely important to get the newspaper so they can use it to talk to friends or family about current events.

This group is a reminder that consumers don’t act in isolation—their behavior and decisions are influenced by other people and by social dynamics.

The news content matters a great deal to the Friends and Family group, as high-quality and interesting articles are how the subscriber can share and converse with other people. Among the reasons this group says they were ready to subscribe are that they wanted local news, saw a number of interesting articles, and wanted coverage of a specific topic.

This group favors print over digital, in similar proportions to other recent subscribers.

The Friends and Family group tends to be female and identify as a Democrat. They are also both more urban and slightly younger than other subscribers. 

Friends and Family includes 15 percent of total respondents.

“My parents read the LA Times religiously,” says a subscriber in the Friends and Family path. “I took over their subscription upon their death. It speaks to me and to my community.”

Publisher strategies for Friends and Family

This path is highly influenced by family and friends, but they also share content that they find interesting and relevant.

This is the only subscriber path that cites education as a primary topic of interest, as well as the only group to cite coming to events as a significant way they interacted with the paper. There are potential opportunities here to create events, newsletters, podcasts, and more around education and parenting.

We think this path offers some concrete steps for publishers to experiment with.

Publishers should test different “refer a friend” programs, where subscribers can refer friends or family to receive a discount or as a gift. Publishers should also test offering discounts and benefits to those who refer new subscribers.

One popular and effective way to sell subscriptions to Friends and Family is through gift subscriptions. These offers are often pushed at the end of the year, asking the existing subscriber to renew at a discounted rate and also give another friend a gift subscription at a promotional rate. This tactic increases new subscriptions, as well as increases retention by having the existing subscription renew early.

In addition, different bundled subscription packages should be tried for family, including group access to print and digital. Some publishers limit digital access to two different email logins. It is worth testing the possibility of allowing more users digital access for months or even a year in those cases.   

Meanwhile, publishers will need to implement customized engagement and retention efforts for recipients of gifted or bundled subscriptions, since these readers may not be as motivated to use their access. It is important to keep these new readers engaged.

Up close: Who are the Friends and Family group?

Subscribers who found their way through friends and family skew heavily female compared with other subscribers (60 percent vs. 45 percent). A majority are Democrats (61 percent vs. 48 of other subscribers). They are also slightly more urban than other subscribers (36 percent vs. 27 percent), but they are found at all sizes of papers similar to other subscribers.

Some of the most common ways Friends and Family subscribers interacted with the source before subscribing are using print copies belonging to friends or family and seeing shared content from friends or family.

These subscribers are also more likely than other subscribers to encounter their source through content shared by others and to have shared content themselves.

Friends and Family Other subscribers
I read print copies belonging to my friends or family 62% 39%
I saw friends or family share its content or recommend it 54% 25%
I encountered it on Google and other search engines 50% 41%
I bought individual print copies of the newspaper 48% 39%
I regularly shared its content with others 44% 26%
I followed the organization’s account on social media 26% 19%
I went to events it organized 16% 7%

Data Source: Question: Prior to becoming a paying subscriber to [SOURCE], in which of the following ways did you interact with [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

After subscribing, this group is more likely than others to regularly share the content, save print copies to share with others, and go to events the publisher organizes.

Friends and Family Other subscribers
Regularly share its content with others 67% 39%
Save print copies to read later or share with others 57% 35%
Go to events it organizes 23% 11%

Data Source: Question: Now that you subscribe to [SOURCE], in which of the following ways do you interact with [SOURCE]? Do you …?

Media Insight Project

Share with your network

You also might be interested in:

  • Successfully and efficiently marketing your work can be hard, especially for local news teams with limited resources, but marketing yourself to your audience is an essential skill for news organizations to drive revenue and promote sustainability.

  • As news teams begin thinking about their election coverage plans, it may feel like adding more tasks to an already full plate, with a fraction of the staff and resources they once had. But that doesn’t have to mean figuring out how to do more with less — maybe it’s doing less with less.

  • We reached out to Danielle Coffey, the CEO of American Press Institute’s parent corporation, the News/Media Alliance, to learn more about the legal fight for news organizations’ rights with AI.