When it comes to convincing people to subscribe to or support a publication, there’s not just one funnel, but many. A new report from the American Press Institute offers some insight into the many factors —
both behavioral and emotional — that influence how people decide whether to give news organizations money.
Following a series of one-on-one interviews with fifteen people around the U.S. (which followed a previous, broad survey of 2,199 people), API split news subscribers into three groups. The “civically committed” see supporting news organization as their moral duty; as a result, they aren’t sensitive to pricing and will pay for subscriptions even if they don’t use them. On the other end of the spectrum are the price-sensitive “elusive engagers,” who are averse to subscriptions and see information as a commodity. Sitting between the two are what API calls the “thrifty transactors,” who are highly selective it comes to publications they pay for, but also highly loyal.
Here are some highlights from the report, which you can find in full here.
— For the civically committed, it’s about more than just the content. These subscribers are actually more interested in in being members, and as such want to feel “a sense of belonging and membership with the news organizations they support,” writes Tran Ha, the report’s author. In-person events, hand-written thank-you notes, and partnerships with other mission-driven groups are effective ways to further engage these kinds of subscribers.
— To attract thrifty transactors, news organizations should focus on excelling in a few key coverage areas. Because these subscribers are driven by, first and foremost, concerns about the utility and relevance of the organizations they support, they’re more likely to respond to news organizations’ continual reassertion of their unique value. These are people more likely to subscribe to Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal rather than, say, donate to The Center for Investigative Reporting. One proposal: News organizations should create cheaper subscription tiers focused on specific verticals or specialty areas, so subscribers can pay for just the content they need.