Guest Columns Reader Revenue
4 mins read

3‌ ‌questions‌ ‌to‌ ‌ask‌ ‌about‌ ‌your‌ ‌audience‌, ‌before‌ launching‌ ‌a‌ ‌digital‌ ‌subscription‌ ‌program‌

If‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌thinking‌ ‌about‌ ‌implementing‌ ‌digital‌ ‌subscriptions,‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌easy‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌overwhelmed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌factors‌ ‌and‌ ‌variables‌ ‌that‌ ‌go‌ ‌into‌ ‌launching,‌ ‌evolving‌ ‌and‌ ‌scaling‌ ‌the‌ ‌new‌ ‌model.‌ ‌To‌ ‌help‌ ‌your‌ ‌business‌ ‌thrive,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌need‌ ‌a‌ ‌strategy‌ ‌in‌ ‌place‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌meet‌ ‌your‌ ‌goals‌ ‌—‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌plan‌ ‌to‌ ‌optimize‌ ‌your‌ ‌results‌ ‌over‌ ‌time.‌ Take‌ ‌it‌ ‌one‌ ‌step‌ ‌at‌ ‌a‌ ‌time‌ ‌by‌ ‌understanding‌ ‌your‌ ‌organization’s‌ ‌audience‌ ‌to‌ ‌inform‌ ‌your‌ ‌product‌ ‌strategy.‌ ‌Asking‌ ‌these‌ ‌three‌ ‌questions‌ ‌will‌ ‌help‌ ‌you‌ ‌start‌ ‌off‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌right‌ ‌foot‌ ‌and‌ ‌determine‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌path‌ ‌forward.‌

1. Who is my audience?

Your most engaged, loyal readers are most likely to become subscribers, members or customers of your new product.

If you don’t feel confident in your understanding of this group, an audience survey can help you collect demographics and test preferences, behaviors or interests across populations. Audience surveys are best used to quickly gather lots of information from a broad audience, like when you have specific questions and hypotheses to test.

User personas are dependent on a number of factors, from referral source to topic preferences to visit frequency. For example, you might find a loyal group of readers who visit your website every morning after reading your daily newsletter. Another segment is visiting your website every Sunday morning to read about the local football team’s upcoming matchup. And another still is visiting a few times a week over the lunch hour to read breaking news stories they see on social media.

Every persona or audience segment has its own specific needs, so it’s vital to zero in on what motivates all of them to subscribe in order to be successful with the paid launch.

2. What would they pay for?

Your audience’s values, needs and relationship to your brand will help you define the product or set of products that best serve them and meet their needs. Using the example personas above, you might consider offering corresponding products, such as:

For daily visitors

A metered paywall is a method of segmentation based on pageviews, which will make the most sense for very high output operations with unquestioned brand quality. When contemplating metered, you should consider whether pageviews is the best way to segment the audience or if other engagement thresholds or machine learning methods could be more effective.

For those interested in sports

If you find a segment of readers visiting your website solely for local sports reporting (as many local publications have lately), offering a separate subscription product for only your sports section could be a smart way to increase revenue from this group.

For occasional readers

For occasional readers, a freemium model may be better fit to encourage conversations. Under freemium models, you will often have articles that vastly out-perform any others — with individual articles driving thousands of conversions in some cases. Those runaway successes also help editorial understand what kinds of articles to produce more of.

No matter your offering, conducting in-depth audience interviews with a small sample of users allows you to get feedback on features, prototypes or concepts, and can even help you discover new ideas. This type of qualitative feedback is indispensable to validate your ideas and get an early-stage proof of concept before moving forward with your launch.

3. What’s the right price?

While needlessly low prices can leave money on the table, pricing too high can kill demand for a new offering before it has a chance to gain traction. A high price puts extra pressure on a budding offering before the product is fully baked or the marketing is optimized.

The right price depends on your strategy. Do you want to maximize the number of subscribers, revenue, brand perception or some other metric? A well-designed pricing survey can help identify user price sensitivity and willingness to pay.

It’s also important to watch out for “price cliffs.” Every product has psychological price thresholds, and they tend to occur at round numbers — like $5 or $10 for monthly, $50, $75 or $100 for annual. Above these numbers, demand drops off, so pricing just below them helps your conversion rate.

Test, test and test again

Launching a subscription program can be the start of a new journey, but the first iteration on your product shouldn’t be the last. Organizations that are constantly fine-tuning their offering have significantly better results than those who have static offerings and marketing strategies.

Anna Caselli
Director of Client Strategy, Piano

Piano’s Digital Experience Cloud empowers organizations to understand and influence customer behavior. By unifying customer data, analyzing behavior metrics and creating personalized customer journeys, Piano helps brands launch campaigns and products faster, strengthen customer engagement and drive personalization at scale from a single platform. Headquartered in Philadelphia with offices across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, Piano serves a global client base, including Air France, the BBC, CBS, IBM, Kirin Holdings, Jaguar Land Rover, Nielsen, The Wall Street Journal and more. For more information, visit