Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
3 mins read

Building a robust playbook for subscription businesses: Publisher insights from FT Strategies

This week we hear from Tara Lajumoke, Managing Director of FT Strategies, the Financial Times’ consulting firm. We discussed how FT Strategies fits into the FT’s wider goals, what her role involves as MD, and how they’re building a robust playbook for other subscription businesses. We also talk about how publishers’ subscription strategies are holding up after the pandemic.

In the news round up, Peter and Esther discuss Spotify’s paid podcast tools, Axios’ early expansion of its local newsletters into 11 new locations, and why we still care about magazine covers.

Here are some highlights:

What FT Strategies’ priorities have been since launching

The first thing is building a robust playbook. We work with many organisations who are fairly sophisticated in their own right, so they’ve done a lot of interesting work around building winning business models and developing their tactics on retention and acquisition.

What we therefore need to do is really help them move the needle, and tackle ambitious, complex challenges and opportunities. And to do that, we have built a really exciting set of strategies, and a methodology to help them cross this next phase of their journey, which for many of the clients we work with is around building resilient business models that can certainly not only survive the current crisis, but thrive through it and beyond.

But it’s also about building long-lasting, valuable relationships with your audiences. Valuable for their audiences in ways that allows them to get exciting and insightful content and products, but also for the business as well, in terms of hitting really ambitious targets.

Why the FT is helping other publishers

We believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. And that actually, having more and more organisations for example, talking about the value of reader revenue models, then we all benefit – ourselves included.

For a long time, the FT and the New York Times, and maybe other sectors like Netflix were the ‘subscription evangelists’, preaching the gospel of reader revenue models and the need to diversify from traditional revenue lines like advertising. And it’s actually quite a challenging task to do that, because there is a big mindset shift for many industries.

So actually, we think there is a more philosophical mission here for us, which is, how can we protect valuable content?

How subscriptions are faring post-pandemic

After those Covid-driven large audience numbers, sustaining that growth has been a real challenge. We are really starting to see – which I think is a good thing for the consumer – really interesting attempts at retaining audiences beyond the classic price-led discounts. So really deepening your understanding of who your user is, why they subscribe to you in the first place, what they’re consuming and how, what type of things might keep them for longer and drive engagement.

I think for us, that’s the key factor. It’s not just about holding on to people. For us, it’s about building a relationship with people, one that is built on a deeper appreciation for the content that you offer, and deploying a set of intelligent tactics to encourage loyalty and use, which is this virtuous cycle that hopefully then leads to retention.