Retention rates for business publishers continue to hold
A shaky economic outlook is forcing most consumers and businesses to scrutinize their spending closely. Still, many business-focused publishers say their subscriber retention rates continue to hold up well regardless.
Sources at Axios, Bloomberg and Politico said the companies are not seeing a direct decline in subscriber retention rates due to the economic downturn, Digiday reported. And we’ve heard similar from business-to-business and “prosumer” publishers in recent weeks: Most were bracing for the year to get off to a shaky start, but — although new subscriber conversions may have slowed — the majority say they’ve seen no significant uptick in subscriber cancellations in January.
Consistent churn rates could be a direct result of publishers stepping up their retention efforts, of course. Throughout 2022 publishers reported that their focus shifted from growing their subscriber bases to retaining existing ones, with many opting to add more value to their offerings or offering increased flexibility around their subscription terms and pricing.
Many publishers are now reorienting their businesses toward subscriber revenue and engagement as “North Stars” more broadly, which is likely propping up retention rates to some degree. Subscriber growth is being deprioritized as publishers instead focus their attention more acutely on the audience groups that are most likely to sustain their businesses through a difficult period.
The rise of the registered web
Publishers are stepping up efforts to turn audiences into registered user bases as they hunt for ways to maximize revenue and attempt to future-proof their businesses.
Registration has played an increasingly important role in publishers’ subscription strategies in recent years, thanks to its ability to unlock reader engagement opportunities and move audiences down the path to conversion. But building logged-in user bases has quickly become a strategic imperative across publishers’ broader businesses, as their ability to help drive advertising, commerce and non-subscription revenue streams becomes increasingly clear, and as Google’s planned deprecation of third-party cookies in 2024 looms.
This shift towards a “registered web” – which will require audiences to be registered and logged in to view significant portions of many publishers’ sites – looks set to accelerate as the year progresses, and as publishers view registration as increasingly essential for the sustainability of their businesses.
Other items worth noting
- Some publishers say their Q1 ad revenue is pacing 10-25% behind forecasts, according to Digiday. As we’ve explored previously, subscriber growth may have slowed but publishers face revenue headwinds across most aspects of their businesses.
- Digital subscriptions continue to provide reasons for local news operations to be optimistic. Press Gazette explores the progress being made by publishers in the U.S.
- Subscription teams are under growing pressure to “show the money” as publishers seek to maximize revenue. INMA explores where publishers might focus their efforts to boost short-term revenues.
- Gannett is attempting to add value to its subscription products by offering subscribers access to digital magazines.