Monthly Subscriptions and Dynamic Models Can Add to Your Reader Base

SIIA member Piano came up in the SIPA Discussion Forum today. Coincidentally, their director of research, Patrick Appel, just put out some interesting information on subscriptions and renewals at a Readers First Meetup sponsored by the International News Media Association.

Monthly subscriptions have become more popular in the industry of late. And last year saw the increased popularity of billing every four weeks instead of monthly (20% of news publishers are doing this now vs. 3% in 2018).

Appel noted that “longer-term subscriptions tend to be higher value just because there’s such high churn at the beginning of monthly, short-term subscription.” But he added that publishers shouldn’t ignore monthly subscribers entirely: “There is a conversion rate, certainly, by offering monthly as an option … but after a subscription has been around for a year, you’re seeing a majority of annual.”

Here are more notes on subscriptions from Appel and others:

Focus on onboarding. For monthly subscriptions, Appel said that “really you’re talking about the first three months, the first six months, as this risk period. Either [the subscriber] bought it with the intent to churn—we’ve seen that before—or it hasn’t been effectively communicated about the value. Or maybe they bought it and were thinking about it and that first month, they didn’t see the value.” So when looking at monthly subscriptions, Appel said the focus is really on that onboarding campaign.

Think about the balance between short- and long-term commitments, as well as the pricing strategy between those two. “It’s really critical,” Appel said. “When we think about optimizing ultimately for revenue, we want to think both about what is the increase on acquisition, and what is the hit on retention.”

Look to other models besides metered paywalls. “I predict a shift in how U.S. publishers implement their paywalls, with many beginning to operate a freemium-style model (already common in Europe) and others beginning to experiment with dynamic models that ask different readers to pay at different points in their journey,” said Josh Schwartz, CTO of Chartbeat, on NiemanLab. “…While meters assume that each story’s contribution toward a user’s eventual subscription is in some sense the same, freemium and dynamic models let us think about how each story can best contribute to the business—bringing in new readers, driving engagement, driving subscriptions, or deepening engagement among subscribers.

For a price increase, do testing and look at data. “The best thing a publisher can do when they are thinking about raising prices is to start moving away from a gut feeling approach, where you ‘think’ you should move prices, and at least start with some data and see what that tells you,” said Dustin Tetley from a consulting group called Mather. “And test as much as possible before moving forward or throughout the price increase process. We find there’s really a lot you can learn from each price increase.”

And increase engagement. Customers who are more engaged tend to accept price increases more readily than those that are not engaged, Tetley reported. Engagement also has a big effect on overall stop rate and retention. “When you see a group that had no digital usage in the month prior to the price increase, they stopped at a much higher rate than customers that were highly engaged,” Tetley said. He added that new customers won’t like price increases so build loyalty and tenure.

Learn to tell the story of your company: who you are, what your product is, and why it is so important right now, wrote Eduardo Suarez in a new Reuters study. This appeal should be crafted carefully. It must take into account the mission of your organization as well as its ownership and its history. “Few news brands have done this more systematically than the Guardian. The messages at the bottom of its articles are long, conversational, and customized by topic and geography. They are designed to answer frequent questions from their readers before asking them to contribute.”

SIIA-amp-network-feature-photo’s Successful Lead Generation ‘Show’

Last year, Lesley Ellen Harris of SIPA member told me about a very successful 20-minute virtual lunchtime session they do called Zoom On In. With as many as 140 people signing up, has found a relatively stress-free but content-strong formula to engage more audience.


“I know these topics inside out,” Harris said at the time. “So I don’t have to do any research. It’s around lunchtime and really short but long enough to say some useful things. I kind of challenge myself by saying that I have five things to tell you today—and then I have to get through all five things. It’s fun. Sometimes [at the end], I’m like, ‘Whoosh I made it!’ And I can see people smiling.” (On Zoom, Harris can see some attendees, and they can see her.)

I just checked, and happily the beat goes on for the Zoom On Ins, but now with guests! Two more sessions are scheduled—on Jan. 23 and Feb. 13—both with prominent speakers. “Yes, this is kind of a Phase 2,” Harris just told me on the phone. “I’ll come on to briefly introduce the speakers but then they’ll take over. The 20 minutes go fast.”

Harris uses the Zoom On Ins to build audience and promote their 2020 online copyright courses. She will talk about that and more successes on Thursday at 2 pm in a SIPA Webinar titled How to Develop Free Webinars (and Other Virtual Events) that Generate Qualified Leads—and Convert Them to Paying Customers. Also presenting will be Greg Hart, director of marketing, PSMJ Resources, Inc., and president of SIPA, so you should join in.

The webinar is free for SIPA members. Register here.

The Zoom On Ins have “helped us reinforce the topics that interest our small niche market, and many signed up for our free weekly copyright newsletter,” Harris said. “It’s another way for us to get amplified, reach beyond our own circle. Someone on the call will tell one or two staff members to sign up for the next one. To pick topics, we go to our Google Analytics and look at the top blog entries—see what’s most popular. Maybe it’s ‘A Simple Guide to Copyright for Librarians.’ We target who we know our market is. They might ask, ‘Are we doing it again?’ And we’ll say look at our courses.”

It’s great to see that Harris has expanded both with guests and geography. The Feb. 23 Zoom On In will feature two UK educators who are passionate about education and gamification. For that reason, the Zoom On In will start at 10 am. For the Jan. 23 session, listeners can get 30% off an important book in the field.

Mostly, Harris does not record her Zoom On Ins, though Thursday’s webinar, like all SIPA webinars, are recorded and can be accessed by members at any time. (The archives are here.) “It’s more about the way it’s shared, the atmosphere, not the information,” Harris said last year. “There’s a certain energy to do it live. And people love Zoom.” She also gets a sense that people are a little tired of watching PowerPoints.

The one exception where she did record a Zoom On In occurred when a larger library entity promoted it, and 450 people registered. Zoom can usually only accept 100 for a session, but told Harris that if she did a couple things they could open it to everyone. Unfortunately, Zoom left off one key task, and many people couldn’t join in. This frustrated Harris though she did take solace that email addresses were recorded..

“Our list is everything,” Harris said. “So at least I did get the names and could reach out to those people and offer them articles and tell them about the courses. I find that, for me, people don’t go to the recordings too much, but at least I did have it” if anyone asked for it.’s signature copyright certificate programs cost $1500 so Harris and her staff know that people probably won’t sign up “just because they attended a 20-minute session,” she said. “But they’ll follow us anyhow. It reminds and encourages them to stay with us. I find that our best customers are the ones who have already taken a course or done something with us.” There’s also a follow-up email after each session urging people to join the weekly list or look at the courses.

If you haven’t signed up yet for Thursday’s webinar, now is the time! Register here.


Audio Articles Could Be the Next Big Thing for Publishers in 2020

Part of the success of podcasts—over half of publisher respondents in a new Reuters Institute study said they would be pushing various types of podcast initiatives this year—comes from the new demands on our time. We can listen to podcasts while doing something else, be it driving, commuting, working out, cooking, etc.

Now that same logic is propelling another trend: audio articles. In that same Reuters study, titled Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020, they write this in a section called What to Expect in 2020:

“Improved technology is enabling new opportunities for publishers in quickly re-versioning text output into audio. In Canada, the Globe and Mail is one of the first publishers to use Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that sounds far more natural to the human ear than previous versions. Subscribers can listen to selected articles in English, French and Mandarin and choose their favorite voice.”

Okay, so being able to listen to one of your articles in say, Mandarin, would increase your possible audience only by a mere billion or so. That’s pretty substantial.


In Denmark, “slow-news” operation Zetland—which I’ve written about before for their trendiness—provides all of its stories with a (human-read) audio option. Around 75% of all stories are now listened to rather than consumed via text. 75%! That’s amazing. (This graphic is from that Reuters report.)

Zetland was one of the first publishers to put on live events, called Zetland Live, featuring their staff. In one video, their editor begins as the emcee with some type of fowl mascot behind her. Then we see a woman on a trapeze, a mini-symphony, a reporter talking about his coverage of Afghanistan perhaps, another reporter with footage of himself in Africa perhaps, audience involvement, a sports segment, storytelling, more music and an after-party (where the fowl returns).

Back to audio articles. “In Brazil the newspaper Estadão has teamed up with Ford to create a human-read daily audio service for Spotify. Each part of the newspaper has its own album, each news story has its own track. Many publishers see connected cars as a new opportunity to reach audiences and audio as a key way to deliver journalism in the future.”

Taking a quick look around the web, it seems that there are many affordable vendors now. Natural ReadersTTSReader and Text2Speech came up for me.

In an article in June, Molly Raycraft on the site B2B Marketing wrote about B2B brands incorporating voice technology in their marketing. She insists that your products should be voice tech accessible.

“Unquestionably the standard should be that you have either vocalized your product, or at least designed your website content to work with text-to-speech systems. So while you may have aspirations of doing something futuristic and ground-breaking with voice tech, make sure you’ve got the basics covered. This could even be as simple as filling in a proper description in the ‘alt text’ box on website images.”

Then she writes: “B2B tech copywriting agency Radix Communications gives a great example of how effective it can be to simply repurpose what you have into audio in order to increase its accessibility. As part of its podcast Good Copy, Bad Copy, the agency has been experimenting with reading its blogs aloud. This makes the content more accessible to those who potentially have a visual impairment, as well as those who are on the go and can’t sit down to read.”

Then there are flash briefings, where your company’s news can now be part of Alexa’s early-morning summaries. Besides being news-oriented, flash briefings can broadcast inspirational quotes, event listings, finance tips, random facts, etc.

From “Via an undeniably cumbersome interface, users choose which flash briefings they’d like to hear and the order in which they appear. Then, whenever the user says, ‘Alexa, tell me the news’—or the much clunkier, ‘Alexa, play my flash briefing’—the device will get the latest news from those sources, in that predetermined order.”

What a great way for a specialized publisher subscriber to get her morning update.

LunchByte | What District Technology Leaders Want with Guest Lenny Schad

This episode of LunchByte features host – Jill Abbott, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of ETIN as she speaks with Lenny Schad.


Jill Abbott is currently the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of ETIN. Her passion centers on education and helping people reach their maximum potential. With this inspiration and insights gained from a comprehensive background in education reform, personalized learning, assessment, curriculum design, and policy and program development. She is a seasoned executive in education holding local, regional, state, national, and international roles in improving education through transformative practices.


Special Guest

Lenny Schad has been in the technology sector for 28 years, spending time in hospitality, government, oil and gas, investment banking and education—including managing and leading technology departments for the 1991 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations and the 1992 Republican National Convention. Schad moved to the school sector in 2003, and successfully led implementations of BYOD and 1-to-1 initiatives in both Katy and Houston.


The LunchByte is the podcast for the Education Division, ETIN, of SIIA This series provides you with access to leaders in the education industry and private enterprise.

Learn from leaders what:

·        The new topics in education are,

·        They are thinking about for the next wave of technology,

·        The greatest trends in sales and marketing involve, and Much more.



January Member News

Reorg Announces Partnership With the European Leveraged Finance Association (ELFA)

Reorg, a financial media and technology company, recently announced its partnership with the European Leveraged Finance Association (ELFA). ELFA is a trade association for European leveraged finance investors, and works to establish and enhance industry best practices by promoting education as well as advocating for increased market transparency.

Kent Collier, founder and CEO of Reorg said, “We are delighted to enter into this partnership. Our reporters, analysts and legal experts, who together make up the ‘Reorg Trifecta,’ have deep expertise in the leveraged finance and distressed debt market, and we look forward to engaging with ELFA and its members to contribute to its mission of providing more transparency to the European credit market.”

BoardIQ/Ignites, Money-Media Publications, Hire Garcia as New Data Reporter

Adrian Garcia has taken on the post of data reporter at BoardIQ and Ignites at Money-Media, a Financial Times company, Talking Biz News reports. Previously, Garcia was a contributor at Marijuana Business Daily. Before that, he was at Bankrate working as a data journalist and analyst where he covered credit cards and personal finance.

SIPA Member Newsletter Assets for Sale

After being a SIPA member for several years, Monique Leahy of Wordsworth Law Publications Inc. has decided to cut back her subscription newsletter business and put her assets up for sale. She would be happy to assist with any transition. “Current law and medical writers [are] willing to work for new owner producing new content.”

These assets include:

Digital medical/law reports and companion newsletter archives. The publications provide vital medical and litigation analysis and practice materials for the risk management, attorney, physician, insurance, and related markets and have great potential for the right buyer.

Content comprises 95 reports (55+ pages each) on medical litigation topics plus top-tier expert guidance and topic-specific medical and law information. “Content has significant potential as a fold-in or new vertical.”

There is no broker involved, and the archives are being offered directly from the current owner. Reply to or 212.213.0222.

BlueConic Lands $13 Million in Series B Funding

BlueConic, provider of a customer data platform, has pulled in $13 million in Series B funding, bringing its total financing to $25 million. The round was led by new investor Spring Lake Equity Partners with participation from existing backer Sigma Prime Ventures and angel investors. Dan MacKeigan, founding partner of Spring Lake, has joined the BlueConic board.

The company says it is equipped to help brands improve their marketing while complying with the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and other laws.

“In an era of consumer privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, brands are unprepared to orchestrate individualized marketing for every stage of the customer lifecycle while also respecting individual privacy,” states BlueConic CEO and co-founder Bart Heilbron.

RIP Horace Hildreth Jr., Former CEO, Diversified Communications

Horace Augustus Hildreth Jr., “Hoddy”, died Dec. 12, 2019, at his home in Falmouth, with his family by his side. He was 87.

From the Portland Press Herald: “The family business, Diversified Communications, became a strong broadcasting and trade show company under his leadership. He became CEO in 1980, and his approach was to focus on people and strategy. With his leadership team, he built a culture of excellent business performance, good communication, treating employees well, and good corporate citizenship. He believed strongly in empowering people, and was known for the phrase, ‘Hire good people and get out of their way.'” A former Maine state senator, he had a passion for the conservation of Maine lands.

RIP Nathaniel Parsons, Former SIPA Employee


Nat Parsons worked for SIPA when I started here in 2009. He was always in a good mood, talked gloriously about his dogs and worked hard to help SIPA.

Nat passed away late last month—he had moved to the Denver area a few years ago. I saw the announcement on Facebook accompanied by many loving tributes. This one came from Abbey Parsons:

“I can’t express how heartbroken we all are at this time. Your sense of humor was unmatched and always needed to lighten the mood during stressful situations. I knew I could always get support from you to pursue my dream of being a veterinarian from our shared love of animals. We love you so much.”

If you have any news, hirings, transactions, awards or anything else you’d like fellow members to know about, please email me at Thank you and happy new year!