This week’s guest on The Subscription Publishing Show is Jason Clampet, co-founder and chief product officer at travel industry news publisher Skift.
Skift launched 10 years ago and began its foray into subscriptions with a research-based product in 2015. Fast-forward seven years and the publisher now offers four distinct subscription products tailored to the needs of different groups of professionals across the travel industry. Subscriptions now make up a third of its revenue alongside events and advertising.
Jason and I discussed the opportunity for publishers to serve specific segments of their audiences more deeply by offering multiple subscription products, why subscriptions are now leading the way for Skift’s business, and why it decided to piece together its own subscription technology stack rather than buying an off-the-shelf solution.
Highlights from the conversation included:
Why Skift decided to launch multiple subscription products
Instead of bundling all of its content and offerings together under an overarching membership or subscription, Skift now offers four distinct products aimed at specific segments of its audience and designed to meed different needs: Skift Pro, Skift Research, Airline Weekly and Daily Lodging report. That’s enabled the publisher to monetize a greater portion of its audience via subscriptions, Jason said.
“The main concern was we didn’t want the normal Skift news product to be limited to people who could afford Skift research. Skift research is about $2,000 a year and that’s really high price for a daily news product. And a lot of people who read Skift don’t have any need for research. We wanted to be realistic about it… For somebody who runs a PR firm in travel, or if you’re a marketing executive hotel brand, you may not need research but you definitely need Pro. And so that allowed us to price things much differently.”
Building custom subscription technology instead of buying an off-the-shelf solution
After working with multiple subscription software vendors, Skift ultimately decided to piece together its own solution to accommodate its specific needs, including integrating subscriptions closely with events.
“We wanted to know more about our users in order to make their experience better. And so we decided that we wanted to bring the kind of the paywall in-house and control it more… We went out shopping hoping that we could buy something off the shelf that would be perfect for us and we didn’t have that experience. And so we end up cobbling together a few things to power the subscription business… It’s really allowed us to have a better relationship with subscribers and event attendees than we could have if we bought something off the shelf, which I really would have preferred to do at the start of it.”
Subscription fatigue and B2B media
The notion that audiences won’t pay for access to high-quality content is a fallacy, Jason said, particularly in B2B media.
“If readers need it for their job, they’re going to pay for it. It’s your job as a publisher to make sure that they feel it’s essential to what they do. There’s a lot of free options out there for information, but not a lot of it’s good. People will pay for quality.
Why subscriptions are leading Skift’s business
With its Pro product entering its third year, subscriptions now make up around a third of Skift’s overall revenue. The company hopes that trend will continue and that, between subscriptions and events, the majority of its revenue growth will come directly from paying relationships with its audience.
Transcript of full conversation:
(Audio was transcribed using an automated service. Please excuse mistakes and typos.)
Jack Marshall 0:00
Maybe to start, you can just give us some background on Skift’s road to subscriptions. Skift launched 10 years ago but subscriptions weren’t a part of the mix at the time. So when did you add subscriptions? And why?
Jason Clampet 1:04
Yeah, when we launched in 2012. There’s a lot of talk about big data at the time. And this was the early days of Nate Silver and online content and data and journalism. And that didn’t pan out as well. And but what we found is we started doing these trend reports in a PDF format, in addition to our regular news product, and people really liked them. And so we started a, what was called at the time Skift trends, where we would publish to a month, and you could do individual subscription. And then, shortly after we started doing multi user enterprise subscriptions, and that was, I want to say 2015, was the first time we did that. And that then evolved into what’s now called Skift. Research. And that’s our oldest subscription product. And we always sold that as a premium. One because it just took a lot of work to do. And to because it was a much richer product with a longer shelf life than Daily News. And so we’ve that’s evolved over the years, we now have some data LED products as part of that. And people who subscribe to that it’s largely institutions, either travel companies or companies adjacent to the travel space, which will buy multiuser subscriptions there. But we also sell quarterly and annual individual subscriptions. And so that’s still priced at a at a premium compared to some of the other products that we have kind of took what we learned from Skift research. And that led into some of the other products, we actually that led into us being attracted to existing paid subscriber travel, media brands that are out there that were a little smaller. And we acquired a company about four years ago called airline weekly, which has been around for close to 15 years now. And it was a traditional PDF that they mailed out on Sunday nights, looking at the airline industry on a weekly basis, kind of forecasting what was going to be happening that following week. And so we brought them in. And then last summer, we bought a company called Daily lodging review, which has a newsletter that goes out five to four days a week, to people who largely work in hotels or real estate and investment. And that’s a that was a 20 plus year old company that used to fax copies to people. And now, just emails we were in the process of building out a richer website with archives and things like that. But the most important part of it as getting it in the people to subscribers hands every morning when they need it. And that’s an email format, you know, plain text. And anytime we’ve tried to change it, people say don’t. So that was interesting, but in between, but in the summer of 2020, our skips news product, which is they have a team of about 10 journalists, on staff who are working on it in all different sectors of travel, publishing dozen stories a day or so we put up a metered paywall on that. And that’s been some interesting learnings over the past two years.
Jack Marshall 4:34
Did that have anything to do with the pandemic or this was something you had in the works due to you know, sort of the success of research and the other products that you mentioned.
Jason Clampet 4:51
Yes, and yes, we did. We we created our own paywall and launched that in the summer of two 2019 Even though we had had an existing paywall before that, then the plan was in the spring to launch Skift Pro as a product. And so our Go date was March 15 2020. We ended up sending everybody home from the office on March 12, and never went back. So we decided to hit pause on the launch of skip Pro.
Jack Marshall 5:24
It was literally that weekend, right?
Jason Clampet 5:27
we’re like, you know, maybe it’s not a good time to launch a paid subscription product. And so we ended up launching it in early July of 2020. And we did a lot of things to kind of lead up to it, which looking back on it, if we had launched in March, just kind of as it was, I don’t think we would have done enough to prepare people for it, I think it would have been a big mistake, and we wouldn’t have seen it coming. The advantage of the pandemic is, from the vendors from the pen for the from the pandemic, in terms of what the product became was, we were much more connected with our readers at that point than we were in March, early March 2025. July, we had been giving them news that they needed to do their jobs, and really helping their businesses survive for the last, you know, six months or so. And so they think they really knew the value of it. And we had also done a lot of online events that were pay what you want. And so people could, you know, give us 25 bucks or zero bucks to do an online event. And so they got used to kind of seeing the value of what we were doing for them and, and knew that we’re kind of delivering on a regular basis. And so when we said, hey, we’re gonna launch a paywall, and this is a metered paywall, and this is why I think people understood it much more so than they would have back in March.
Jack Marshall 6:57
Yeah, that’s really interesting. I’d imagine, you know, as best especially sort of going into what ended up being a tricky period for the for the travel business, it might, to some degree have been the ideal time to launch a subscription product, because I’d imagine that your readers, you know, turning to you more than ever to sort of navigate, you know, what was a rapidly changing situation. So maybe that kind of played into your hands to some degree.
Jason Clampet 7:22
Yeah, I think I think it did a little, I think there’s still some people who felt, hey, times are really tough right now. And you want me to give you, you know, $365 a year. But I think the flip side also was people who were like, hey, you know, I know what you’ve delivered over the past six months, and I appreciate it. You know, it’s my, it’s my company credit card anyway. So
Jack Marshall 7:45
yes, someone else is picking up the tab. Okay, great. So give me an overview of, of Skift subscription products as they stand today. So you mentioned airline weekly and daily lodging report, I’d imagine, you know, perhaps those are fairly similar products just targeting, you know, different sort of specific segments of your audience. But then, I guess, with Skift, pro and Skift research, specifically, how do those products differ? And, you know, what sort of problems do they solve for subscribers?
Jason Clampet 8:18
Yeah, for Skift research, it’s really aimed at people who are decision makers in the travel industry, within their companies. So whether they’re forecasting what markets to move into next, or how to reach consumers in a different way, or what kind of branding focus should be. Research really kind of answers those questions. And then also allows us to go really deep on a few specific things. So we’ll do market forecasting there, we’ll look at sectors and the technology that we’re using, especially on the hotel side, or we’ll look really deep at one company. So a good example of that is, you know, we do an annual report about Google’s impact on travel. And so we look at, you know, how they are working with online travel agencies, how they’re serving up local information to users, how they’re integrating booking capabilities within their site, within search, how they’re pushing their own travel related products. And so that it allows us to step back from the Daily News and deliver kind of this big, thoughtful, analytical insight into what’s happening in the business. And then we also do consumer surveys as part of that so people can get a sense of what consumers are thinking about. Whether they’re planning for summer travel or not, if they’re going to cut back are, are spend more. And so that allowed us this summer to say, hey, June and June and July, people were really ambitious and optimistic people were less optimists. struck in August. And so that was helpful for subscribers to be able to have that perspective. On the skip pro side, which is a lower price point, it’s just kind of your daily news. You know, what, what’s happening at Hilton, what are their earnings at Expedia? What’s the strategy of tourism board in Germany? That type of thing. And so that’s the equivalent of the daily newspaper, that type of thing. And so while we do push research on the, on the skiff site, we do keep them relatively separate. Because we found early on there was some confusion among research subscribers, for instance, saying, hey, with my research subscription I used to get stiffed for free, but now I have to pay for it. You know, why do I have to pay for it now? Then we’d have to say, Well, everybody’s free. You didn’t get a free just because your research subscriber. So we’ve tried to do a much better job delineating between what the products are, I think we could probably do a better job of that. But it’s a you know, it’s a constant learning process that I think any other subscription publication has, if they’re if they have multiple different products.
Jack Marshall 11:15
Yeah, for sure. So has that been sort of a challenge or a learning curve? And figuring out how to clearly DiMarco or delineate those products?
Jason Clampet 11:24
Yeah, I think the two, you mentioned the beginning that were very clear that hotels and airlines with those those two products, there’s no confusion at all. But it’s mainly with the research product, because I think people first discovered Skift research by seeing excerpts on on skiff.com along with the news product. And so I think there was confusion there. But now through the messaging and paywalls. And, and also we’ve customer service team has done a great job reaching out to subscribers and saying, Hey, here’s an offer just for you, because you’re a subscriber on the multi user enterprise side, you know, explaining the benefits of having access to both for their users. And that’s been very helpful.
Jack Marshall 12:06
So what was the thinking? Behind separating Pro from research versus packaging everything up under sort of a broader Skift? membership or subscription?
Jason Clampet 12:18
Yeah, I think the main concern was, we didn’t want the normal Skiff news product to be limited by people who could just afford Skift research. So Skift research is about $2,000 a year. And that’s really high price for a daily news product. And a lot of people who read Skift don’t have any need for research. I wish everybody had a need for skip research, but you know, wanted to be realistic about it. And so early on, you know, one of our first ideas was that, okay, we don’t sell multiuser subscriptions to Skift Pro, because we don’t want to cannibalize skip research and cause confusion there. And that turned out to be not smart, because big organizations who liked skipped research and saw the value of it also saw the value of skip Pro on the Daily News product, and they want their people have access to it. So you know, after about three months, we said, okay, yeah, you can buy, you know, 1000 seat license to it, or 100 seat license to it, that’s, that’s fine. And that was a, that was an early learning that for the for big, you know, frequent users, they really need access to everything. But for somebody who runs a PR firm in travel, or if you’re a marketing executive hotel brand, you may not need research, but you definitely need Pro. And so that allowed us to price things much differently. Skip, skip Pro is less than 400 bucks a year as opposed to 2000. So there’s a there’s a big Delta there.
Jack Marshall 14:06
Yeah, interesting. I mean, I feel like we’re sort of seeing a shift towards, I think, sort of simpler, more focused subscription products. And even you know, people on the consumer side point to the New York Times, for example, you know, there’s a lot of talk about them, now selling a bundle of features with games and sports and cooking, but I mean, what they’re really doing is kind of breaking apart. What used to be features of a broader product, which was the newspaper, right, and letting people kind of cherry pick what’s most valuable to them, or then kind of buying the whole thing with a bundle? I mean, it’s, you know, obviously, slightly different with what you’re doing on the b2b side. I think that’s probably due to sort of access to different budgets and some of that stuff, but I don’t know, maybe maybe a similar dynamic there to some degree.
Jason Clampet 14:52
Yeah, I think that, you know, as a New York Times user, I’ve never thought of them As different except maybe the athletic, but that’s just, that’s different anyway. But you know, what I go into my app, I assume I’m going to have the games, cooking and things like that. Just because if I buy a newspaper, I have access to all those things as well. And, you know, it’s somewhat unfair because you know, the cooking app is different offers, you know, enhanced features that you can’t get a newspaper. But as a subscriber, I think, oh, I should get all of that. And so we’ve tried to be cognizant of what user expectations are with our own products, and making sure that we don’t kind of lead, skip pro subscribers on the thinking, Oh, you will definitely get all this research to other people. And so, as we’ve we haven’t done a lot of we haven’t done any bundling on the on the consumer on the individual subscriber side, except offering some discounts if you want to go ahead and subscribe to one of our other products. But we don’t offer like a pro plus research bundle. Because we found that because the products are so different users don’t necessarily need that. And so they if they want to gift news, they want to get news because they really like the writing that sorry about that.
Jack Marshall 16:50
I lost you there. Hey,
Jason Clampet 16:51
sorry about sorry about that went to ignore thing on my screen. And I ended up hanging up.
I think I was saying that we’ve we’ve realized that people don’t kind of need both products necessarily. And it’s a false thing for us to try to squeeze individual subscribers to squeeze a couple products together just to make the individual subscribers happy when that’s not really a use case that we’ve seen happening that often.
Jack Marshall 17:18
Yeah, they can buy both makes sense. So How significant are subscriptions for the business at this point, I guess, you know, in terms of revenue, but then also just sort of, for the focus of the business generally. I mean, you mentioned sort of the evolution from research. And now to pros, how’s that kind of changing your focus on sort of a day to day basis?
Jason Clampet 17:43
Well, thanks to recurring revenue, every year becomes more important to us. And so we’re in the second year of, of Skift. Pro now, and, you know, it’s with renewals, and new subscribers, you know, it’s it’s gonna be, or we’re entering the third year. And so going into third year, it’s a it’s a much bigger part of the business now than it was earlier, in same with Skiff research. And I think that that’s one thing that I people really liked about subscriptions is it brings users back. And it deepens relationships over time. And so, you know, we would love for most of our business to come directly from users, whether that’s buying tickets to live events, or subscribing to things we really value of relationship we have with partners, who do sponsorships and activations with us. And we think that if we deliver them, a group of really active engaged subscribers, it’s an even better experience for them as well. And so the more that we grow, that subscription based, the better, better experience, kind of everybody can have. And so I see it as really leading to disruptions leading the way for everything we do.
Jack Marshall 19:06
Do you think placing greater emphasis on subscriptions and I guess, read a revenue more generally has changed your editorial output at all? Or does it sort of enable you to do things that I guess rely on other revenue streams? Maybe doesn’t?
Jason Clampet 19:24
Yeah, I think we were always pretty lucky that we had a good relationship on the sponsorship and partner side because we never one advantage of being a b2b publication is don’t really worry about CPMs and, you know, banner advertising and things like that. Because, you know, even when you’re the biggest b2b publication on the block, you’re still not close to a consumer publication in terms of size. And so you know, you’re not going to get display ad from Chevrolet. So not having to worry about it kind of gives you an advantage there. And so you create this For a relationship with, with sponsors and partners, whether it’s lead qualified lead generation or things like that. And so it. And we also try on the editorial side to not make, you know, we never made pageviews and metrics and metrics of success. And we haven’t tried to make, you know, pages that lead to subscriptions, a metric of success. But we do know that the thing that converts people more than anything to become a pro subscriber is content that they want to read. And so the nice thing is the content they want to read isn’t isn’t bad journalism, that can get bad journalism anywhere.
Jack Marshall 20:46
Any of that around you, right? So,
Jason Clampet 20:48
you know, the, we’ll have more subscribers based on better stories than we do. And so it really allows us to, to reinforce how important quality editorial was.
Jack Marshall 21:04
Yeah, so talk a little bit more about how subscriptions I guess, sit alongside those other revenue streams. So obviously, as you mentioned, you have advertising and sponsorship businesses, you have events, but to some degree looks like those are starting to sort of intertwine subscribers get access to some digital events, discounts to in person events. So I don’t want to use sort of a cliche flywheel analogy. But as you sort of head into the third year, how a sort of the how is the relationship between these different revenue streams, I guess, evolving and feeding each other to some degree?
Jason Clampet 21:43
Yeah, I think, even with advertising, for instance, is between, you know, digital stuff, which is lead generation, and collaborations there on content. That also bleeds into live events, activations on stage and things like that, excuse me. Been on the subscription side, giving subscribers, certain types of access to events. So we decided earlier this year that for hybrid events, if you want to, if you don’t want to come to a live event, you can attend for free, if you are a subscriber. And so that means our online events that we do no longer have 1000s of people there. But everybody who’s there is a paid subscriber. And so as the year where people are trying to figure out, online versus in person event, it really, really allowed us to say, Hey, I haven’t necessarily figured it out. But if you’re a subscriber, we’re just going to make it easy for you. And so I think all of these cliche, flywheel, yes, it is. But also, it’s a cliche for a reason, things feed on one another. And as long as we kind of focus on value of each product distinctly, and then make sure that there’s a natural relationship between the two that’s connected by the subscriber, or attendee. I think it all kind of makes sense. And so we’re able to make a subscriber feel great at a live event, because their subscriber and we know they’re a subscriber, we’re also able to make a same way make a sponsor, who normally does stuff online, happy at a live event, because of the way we we call them out and partner with them.
Jack Marshall 23:46
So in terms of the paywall model for Skift Pro, how did you sort of arrive at that approach? So with skiffs Pro, it’s what I would call refer to as a hybrid model where it seems you know, some content is reserved exclusively exclusively for some subscribers. But the remainder and maybe the majority is subject to the meter, as you mentioned, how did you sort of arrive at that combination? You know, was it? Obviously, you want to have some content sort of beyond the paywall to drive growth and discovery and that stuff? And the meter sort of does that job? And sort of the exclusive content is, you know, drives retention and engagement and all that stuff? How are you kind of thinking through that?
Jason Clampet 24:30
I think a good idea for any small media organization, especially on the b2b side is to steal ideas from other people who have a lot more money to spend on it, or who have made the mistakes before, you know, we knew that, you know, a meter meter made sense because it allowed people to read a few things. And then, you know, if they’re going on to the fourth story, it means that the content is valuable to them. So they’re going to hopefully click through and subscribe. We did want to put certain free things in front of there. For instance, we license some content from Reuters, we’re not going to make a Reuters story read on Skiff that you might be able to read elsewhere, we’re not going to make that part of your your three clicks a month. Or try to put that behind a paywall, because that’s, that’s kind of silly. We also, for instance, put our podcasts if we do a post that embeds the podcast as a scripted podcast on it, we’re gonna make that free, also, because you can also get that on Apple or Spotify. But really, you know, all of our original content, we stick behind the metered paywall, because we think it’s there’s a lot of value there. And we thought that a three stories a month was reasonable. Some people just need one a month if we do our job, right, you know, people need, you know, a couple of days. And so that kind of is incumbent on us to make it make it required reading.
Jack Marshall 26:02
So what does the path to conversion look like for the typical subscriber, obviously, as you just referred to, you know, hitting the paywall sort of multiple times a day, I guess, is a pretty good one. I’m guessing email is important. Obviously, you have email newsletter products, what does that sort of look like that that journey to conversion?
Jason Clampet 26:25
Yeah, the the newsletters are a big part of how we reach readers on our on a regular basis, from our early days. I think in 2012, there’s a lot of focus on social. And newsletters, we’re not quite as cool as they are the last couple years. But I’ve never been that cool. And business partner is cooler than I am. But he also knew the power of newsletters from his past. And it’s just, you know, lets you get in people’s inbox every day. And so that was a key part of driving conversions to update paid subscribers, so you can still subscribe to our newsletters. You know, we’ve got nearly nearly half a million people subscribed to different newsletters that we do. And they might just read that and not click through to the story, which further click through and become subscribers, but they still they, they get a lot of what they want from the newsletter free newsletter as well. And so those, those people tend to convert at a much higher rates than people who arrive randomly. You know, like other sites would have stories, which will be really, really popular for some reason, either through Google News, search or whatnot, that never convert. And then stories that might have just a few 1000 readers, but they’re from a sector of travel, that really, really matters. And they might, they will convert at a much, much higher level, then, you know, some random, let’s say, airline story about seat comfort. You know, if Dennis, who’s our executive editor does a story about some insight into an Expedia strategy, you know, everybody who works in online travel, needs to read that story. And so those people will convert or if they have existing subscriptions, they definitely log in.
Jack Marshall 28:23
Do you do any paid acquisition at all, or rely on that sort of organic route? Primarily?
Jason Clampet 28:30
Currently, we don’t. And it’s something that I think in that kind of future, we definitely will do. Now that we’re two years in and stuck one month into year three, I think we’re also at a point where we’re going to, you know, look at things that we can change and update and you know, reader habits have changed in that time as well. And so there are things that we can do to improve, improve acquisition, both paid and organically.
Jack Marshall 29:00
In terms of, I guess, pricing and terms for the different products that you offer, you touched on this already with the research products, but I guess for pro, you know, how did you arrive at the price points you did? And why quarterly and annual, as opposed to going sort of a monthly route or, or longer, you know, sort of multi year?
Jason Clampet 29:23
Right? I’ll call back to what I said earlier about stealing good ideas. We looked at other companies in the b2b space, we didn’t look at other travel companies because I don’t think they have as much to learn from as some of the other companies in different sectors, whether that be an advertising or tech or, or fashion or whatnot on the b2b side. So we looked at like, what business fashion is charging Digiday and companies like that at the price points. And then, you know, from what we knew about that thought, how does that relate to people who would be in the travel industry? And so that helped inform the pricing kind of on the annual level. We initially only had an annual and two year subscription for Pro. And then talking to some other people in b2b space. They’re like, Hey, you got to try quarterly quarterly is a really great because they want people. Yeah. And so we’re like, okay, and we tried it. And we’re like, yeah, you’re right. You know, also, though, in, in an early 2020, or Skiff research product, you know, it was only annual subscriptions. And, you know, Google over $2,000 at a time, if your subscription was coming up for renewal in April 2020. And you worked in the travel industry, you didn’t know if you’re gonna have a job in May of 2020. So we rolled out really rolled out a monthly subscription for for research that we had never had before. And people who were coming up for renewal if they said, Sorry, we can’t, we can’t do it. At the annual price, we said, hey, we’ve got this, we’ve got this monthly, and it becomes very popular. Two years into it, though, we realized, you know, wasn’t driving any new subscriptions. We had people who had stayed on the plan and continued to stay on the plan. But we kind of went back to just annuals there. And so, you know, like other companies a little trial and error, I think we could be more sophisticated in some of the pricing. With daily lodging report, for instance, we’re gonna we have a free trial. That’s the first time we’ve done a free trial. So we’ll be launching that shortly. And I think that we might do experiments, just a little bit of bundling. But I don’t want to get too, too excited about that. But I think that we could, we could do more with some of the pricing experimentation.
Jack Marshall 32:01
What’s your view on discounting and introductory offers? You mentioned, you know, a free trial there? You know, I think it’s, it’s pretty clear publishers across the border, are leaning pretty heavily into intro offers at this point, largely because consumers have come to expect them, but also because, you know, it’s just harder to convert subscribers without them, frankly. So, you know, I think some would argue that discounting can cheapen the product and potentially a brand. But is that something that you kind of agonize over? Or it’s just another kind of tool in the in the toolbox?
Jason Clampet 32:33
Yeah, we’ll we’ll experiment from time to time like we did some anniversary sales, maybe 25% off for Skiff Pro. So we’ll do we’ll do that. We also want to keep enterprise subscribers in mind too. So if we, you know, we’d never offer, you know, $1 a year subscription. You see, some sites do I was just telling my wife at lunch that I unsubscribed to a certain sports news sports publication. That’s a paid subscription. Early in the month, I’d had a one pound subscription for a year came up for renewal. It was, I don’t know, 49 or 99 pounds. And I said, I said no. And earlier this week, I got a subscription offer for a pound again, is like what type of message but that, you know, give a guy a two year subscription for two pounds, with only a month delay in the middle. And it didn’t make me feel better about what they had to offer. To be honest, I don’t mind, you know, paying just a pound. But it didn’t make sense. And as you said, the messaging isn’t that great. We know how much it costs to put together good research, we know how much it costs to put together a good daily news product and do analysis. And you need to have, you know, decent journalists, on staff doing it. And so that cost, you know, what it costs. And we’ve been able to hire additional people since we’ve launched skip Pro. And so while I would love to give everybody you know, a free a free year, you know, I would then have to, we’d have to tell a journalist or two that they don’t have a job. So it’s a it’s worth paying for. Being able to offer a discount from time to time, I think is really good. But I think it can also train readers to just sit around and wait for, you know, some $1 A year offer to come through and then be kind of a bad experience around for everybody else.
Jack Marshall 34:42
Yeah, and I think that sports example is sort of a good example of following data to potentially some odd places. So I mean, if you look at that on sort of a lifetime value basis, then great, you know, maybe year three and four, you know, they’re making good money but I think to your When, you know, it sends sort of a strange message, it doesn’t really, you know, attach a huge amount of value to the product upfront. So I don’t know, maybe it just kind of changes expectations and sort of perception of the brand to some degree. Yeah, I think so. Okay, great. So you mentioned enterprise and corporate subscriptions there, how important have those been for you? and on what basis? Are you? Are you selling those,
Jason Clampet 35:27
they’re really important because these, these are brands that, you know, their users read the site all the time, they come to our events, their CEOs speak at our events. And so it also, you know, the annual renewal process is a great time to figure out how important what we do has been to them. And so while it really matters to me, what the renewal rate is like, for individuals, what the renewal rate is, like, for organizations really matters, because they really care about engagement. You know, how many of our people came to your site last month, and so being able to say, X number, x percent came, is really important for us. And so there’s a nice feedback loop coming from them about whether the content is useful or not. And so it’s really and we also have a dedicated sales team focused on that. And so it’s all these kinds of different listening points, from those users that kind of kind of help inform us about how, how essential or not the product is, at that point?
Jack Marshall 36:41
How do you sort of collect that data and feedback is that sort of anecdotal or quantitative or a bit of both?
Jason Clampet 36:48
I’d like to say we use AI,
Jack Marshall 36:50
Jason Clampet 36:53
machine learning, we’ve got really great sales and customer service people. So they will, they’ll reach out to call myself CEO and the people the leads on the editorial teams, you know, we don’t like to that information doesn’t need to be a part of the day to day for our journalists and analysts. But for the, for the product leads, it is important. And so we try to make that a regular part of the quarterly feedback process.
Jack Marshall 37:28
Yeah. And I imagine even just for the editorial team, I mean, going back to my days as a journalist on the editorial side, just having access to, I guess, the challenges that companies are facing behind the scenes, you know, that’s great sort of material on which to base your reporting as well. You know, it’s good point. Okay. I just wanted to touch quickly on technology. I think I’m right in saying that, did you guys build out your own technology to power sort of the paywall and check out? If so, I mean, what made you decide to go that route versus sort of buying a solution off the shelf?
Jason Clampet 38:07
Yeah, we we wanted to buy a solution off the shelf. We had. So you were talking about kind of the breakup of the business that we do. And it’s kind of a third, you know, third, advertising a third events, third subscription. And so the vents was a big part of it. And so when we put the problem we had is, you know, we, for our events, we partnered with kind of the traditional, you know, see event venturi kind of organizations for ticketing and stuff like that. And if a subscriber came to checkout process they see event doesn’t know that this person is spending $2,000 a year on the subscription. They’re just a regular Joe. And so we wanted, we wanted to know more about our users in order to make their experience better. And so we decided that we wanted to bring the kind of the paywall in house in a way and control it more. And so we had a few, we work with a big payroll company that is kind of the 900 pound gorilla in the room now. And then a smaller one that another media organization had built, was licensing out. And we really enjoyed that and basically said to them, you know, you taught us so much that we want to do the same thing as you that’s why we’re not renewing. And so
Jack Marshall 39:30
that’s a compliment, I guess. It
Jason Clampet 39:33
was it was like That’s good news and bad news. Good news is you’re too good. And so what we did then, but it went out kind of shopping hoping that we could buy something off the shelf that would be perfect, kind of just for us and it didn’t have that experience. And so we end up cobbling together a few things for the subscription business we brought in recurrently that does me only, you know, s SAS subscription products for online, we needed something to manage recurring payments and stuff like that. And then, you know, we brought in a payment system because we didn’t want to know, we didn’t want to have to build something from scratch there. And then a kind of a user database off zero. But on top of that, we built this layer that we call mice gift. And by we I mean, Mike, who’s our lead developer and his team, where we kind of know kind of everything about the about the user as a subscriber. And that also ties into HubSpot, which we use for our email marketing and everything like that. So if somebody subscribes to skip pro sends a little note to HubSpot, saying this person’s subscriber and it goes to creates an identity for them about zero and it all kind of sits in this my skipped app that we built, that then also allows us to sell tickets to events. So when we, as I mentioned, we started doing these pay when you want events, during the early stages of COVID crisis, we’re able to do that because we took the paywall that we built and made it an event ticketing platform. And at that time, there weren’t live events. So we didn’t have to worry about all the other kind of moving parts, all we had to do is be able to sell access to something online. And then as live events came back to, to be a thing, we built a check in technology on top of that. So now, if somebody shows up to our Skift Global Forum in New York in September, and their subscriber check in, they scan their barcode and, you know, flashes that they’re skipped Pro, and we put a sticker on their badge to say thank you. And it allows everything to, to talk to each other. Or, for instance, when somebody wants to sign up for an event, we see that they are a subscriber and automatically apply discount. And so it’s all kind of stored in one location, which isn’t, which isn’t as common for subscription products. But it’s really allowed us to, I think have a better relationship with subscribers and event attendees than we could have if we did something off the shelf, which I really would have preferred to do at the start of it.
Jack Marshall 42:28
Okay, so let’s just touch quickly on, I guess, sort of broader economic factors and the broader economic climate. So there’s been a lot of talk in recent months about, you know, I guess, pull back on subscriptions, you know, I guess more on the consumer side, maybe than on b2b. Or I don’t know if, you know, that’s me, maybe has a slightly different dynamic on on the travel industry side, specifically. But then, you know, at the same time, you know, ad dollars aren’t exactly easy to come by and sort of the summer of an economic downturn that say, so how a subscriptions I guess, holding up for you, generally, and then in relation to some of your other revenue streams.
Jason Clampet 43:11
Yeah, they’re holding up surprisingly well. And not not being strange. Nothing’s kind of falling out. I think the travel space is a little a little different. Because travel, like restaurants, for instance, or any anything else live event related, was hit so hard and 2020. I don’t think it’s the same as like consumer goods or consumer news, for instance, where, you know, people were still ordering from Amazon and still, you know, reading Washington Post and stuff like that. Travel Industry, lost a lot of employees, you know, some hotel companies, a third of corporate offices were cleared out, laid off. Same thing happened in airlines. And so it travel was hit really, really hard. And so the summer is people have talked about inflation and concerns around that. And while consumers worried about the price of gas, less, less so at the, at the end of the summer, the beginning of summer, they still were traveling, and they still wanted to get out and hotels are still seeing a really high occupancy rates, some on par with 2019. So I think looking to travel as a bellwether for broader consumer habits might be a mistake. Because there’s so much enthusiasm for within the industry and for people who really just want to you know, we’re sick of being in their house for two years. I think people are price conscious though, because of inflation in certain places I’m on living in the UK now, or I think the only legacy of Boris Johnson is insane fuel and fuel prices and inflation that is making the pound closer to the value of the dollar every day. And so, and so there is definitely price, price sensitivity here, elsewhere across Europe, and also in the US. And so I don’t think it’s a time for subscribers to raise prices at all. And I think people, companies should be really sensitive to prices. And also, what are other products that can be offered? For people who are really concerned about the price right now who still want to engage with the, with the with the product? And so that might mean, you know, like we did in early 2020. Going, you know, offering a monthly option. Maybe we offer something like that for for other things, but it’s something to pay attention to.
Jack Marshall 45:56
Yeah, just sort of meet your audience where they are, I guess to some degree. Yeah. Okay. So, with the benefit of hindsight, what’s something you would do differently? If you were starting over with subscriptions specifically?
Jason Clampet 46:13
Yeah, you know, did tell me you’re gonna ask me this in advance. I think that one of the challenges at a b2b media company who I don’t think most people got to understand how the size difference between, you know, major media organizations and b2b organizations are, you know, we can get the same firehose of information from multiple analytics products. But having the time to analyze that information is where, what the real challenges are. I think that focusing more on the consumer journey, both the person who comes to be a subscriber and the person who ends up being abandoning the shopping cart is really important. And I think that while we’ve tried to focus on that, I think I would have liked us to focus more on that, in the early days, which could have identified some issues that either we spotted later on, or, you know, might continue to be ignorant of now. And so having a good sense of what that journey is, I think, is essential to any subscription product. And so even if you feel that you are successful about what you’re doing, it never hurts to know more about how the consumer got there, and what decisions they made. And so figuring out what, how to get those insights and how to implement them, I think, is something that I wish I knew more of early on and would like to know more of now.
Jack Marshall 47:53
Yeah, I mean, on the data side, it’s also a challenge at limited scale as well, frankly, you know, it’s it’s one thing if you’re a massive consumer publisher, you know, you can run tests and get results in days or weeks, you know, for a smaller publisher, sort of achieving a similar outcome or experiment can take, you know, months. Yeah. Okay, so what’s a myth about subscription models or businesses that you see perpetuated online, or a piece of conventional wisdom that, you know, you see being discussed? And you know, to be false or or disagree with?
Jason Clampet 48:33
Well, I’m definitely not the first person to say this. So like I said earlier about stealing ideas, that people won’t pay for quality content, I think that it’s just, they, if they need it for their job, especially for a b2b application, if they need it for their job, they’re going to pay for it. And it’s your job as a publisher to make sure that they feel it’s essential to what they do. There’s a lot of free options out there for information, but a lot of it’s good. And yeah, people will pay for quality.
Jack Marshall 49:10
Okay, I like that. Keep it simple. So yeah, finally, give us just one subscriptions related prediction for the next 12 months. So if we’re sitting here in a year, what’s one thing that you think will have changed significantly for subscription based publishing businesses?
Jason Clampet 49:33
optimistically I will say that their churn will go to zero and their recurring revenue will spike by 200%. I think that we will see some subscription products kind of go away, looking you know, outside of the b2b space or something like Netflix or Disney that are introducing add tears of their products. I I don’t understand that at all, you know, charging less And then giving ads like what message does that send about ads because ads can have value? I think that there’s going to be some some big mistakes made on the streaming side when it comes to pricing and tiers and advertising. That I don’t know if publishers will be able to learn from it. But I think it will produce spur on a lot of other conversations about subscription products, and what works and what doesn’t. I think a lot of the things that will go out of the insights that come out of that will lead people the wrong way. If they’re not careful.
Jack Marshall 50:42
Okay, we’ll leave it there. Jason, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.
Jason Clampet 50:47
Now, thanks for having me. And thanks for your weekly emails. The toolkits emails are wonderful. We share them internally and tell everybody got to read this and how can we make this change? So it’s very helpful. I appreciate it.