Digital Subscription

How the Financial Times fights subscriber churn

The Financial Times knows it’s better if subscribers use its product as much as possible. Its focus on driving that engagement quickly has rippled out into every corner of the news publisher’s product.

The FT now measures everything from the sign-up of trial users to the speed of its mobile site against the effect it will have on engagement because of its role in converting new subscribers and minimizing churn. Subscribers, including print and digital, have grown 20 percent to more than 930,000 from 2015, said a company spokesperson, with digital subscriptions costing $335 per year.

“Our whole product development process and way of thinking is calibrated around what drives engagement,” said Tom Betts, the FT’s chief data officer. “It used to be much more reactive: ‘Oh, you’re in month 11 of a 12-month subscription.’ We’re now much more focused on retention. You’ll get a call from day one from someone who can help you set up your app or set up myFT.”

When the FT redesigned its site in 2016, it found that slower site speeds affected the amount people read as well as subscriber retention. Using tests where it artificially slowed the site down for some readers, it managed to calculate, down to the extra second, how much increased page-load time affected engagement, retention and other key metrics. That information, according to FT’s chief product officer Gadi Lahav, became a kind of currency.

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