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From 170k to 200k subscribers in 2019: How Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading newspapers, did it

Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading newspapers grew from 170,000 digital subscribers at the end of 2018, to 200,000 nine months later. It’s publisher Jerzy Wójcik said, “Having over 200,000 digital subscriptions is a really huge success of Gazeta Wyborcza – the leader in terms of subscriptions in Poland and the 13th press title in the global ranking with ‘NYT’ at the forefront.”

Although, in the latest Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot from FIPP, Gazeta Wyborcza is ranked 23rd, it’s still ahead of LA Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and Immediate Media.

The publisher attributes this growth mainly to the changes implemented in February 2019. These include: 

  1. Introduction of ‘family access’ 
  2. The ability to read ‘printed’ Gazeta Wyborcza online 
  3. Sharing unlocked articles with friends
  4. Making the Wyborcza mobile app available to all subscribers 
  5. Making the vast majority of individual subscriptions auto-renewable.

Danuta Breguła, Director of Online Strategy at Gazeta Wyborcza, shared some of the strategies with WNIP that helped the publisher fuel subscriber growth in recent months. 

“Easy to sell with discount, but what happens next?”

According to Breguła, the publisher focused primarily on acquiring new subscribers in 2018. The team learnt new ways of selling subscriptions, mastering Facebook and Google ads, creating special offers, boosting performance campaigns etc.

This year they are focused on boosting retention via offers and products that encourage users to consume more content, and sign up for auto-renewable subscriptions.

It’s quite easy to sell any kind of service or product if you offer a big discount – but what happens next? You get thousands of users that don’t really know your product and don’t really use it that much. So they churn. That’s why one of the most important development aspects in 2019 on our way to 200k subscribers was focus on retention, user engagement and reducing churn rate.

Danuta Breguła, Director of Online Strategy of Gazeta Wyborcza

Getting users to sign-up for auto-renewable subscriptions is important because time limited, short- or long-term subscriptions have previously led to high churn rates at the newspaper.

It’s also been challenging to convince people to do so because recurring payments are still not popular in Poland, and many people are wary of giving out their credit card numbers.

“We were acquiring many new users, but at the same time losing almost just as many. Re-engaging them was expensive – both in terms of money and effort. That’s why in February this year, we turned recurring payments into main part of our offer – subscribers still can buy time-limited offers, but usually without any discounts,” says Breguła.

Results are 5x higher than expected 

Apart from discounts what helped the publisher was using what it calls, “progressive” payment plans. It tested 2- or 3-step offers, for example, 3 months for 5 PLN ($1.30) each, then full price; 5 PLN for 2 months, then10 PLN for 2 months and finally full price. 

We make sure that they stay longer in the testing mode while they are already paying customers. This is why we don’t offer free trials as we did in the past – we observed high churn rate and decreasing ARPU, and the solution didn’t attract that many new users.

Danuta Breguła, Director of Online Strategy of Gazeta Wyborcza

The objective was to find the right offer and pricing for specific segments of users. At the same time, the team wanted to ensure there was a balance between the volume of transactions and ARPU, and low churn rate after the discounted period. The strategy also gave users sufficient time to become more familiar with the product, which in turn, got the publisher loyal new subscribers. 

According to Breguła, they were expecting an increase in the number of recurring payments but “the results are already much better than our KPIs. The number is 5 times higher.”

“The more they read, the less they churn”

He adds, “Recurring payments positively affected our churn rate this year. But it takes much more to reduce it so we are now focused on readers’ engagement. Basic rule is: the more they read, the less they churn.”

We have discovered that newsletters are an amazing tool for user engagement – both for new users, as well as for long term subscribers. 

Danuta Breguła, Director of Online Strategy of Gazeta Wyborcza

Gazeta Wyborcza’s website Wyborcza.pl offers over 40 newsletters. They include daily briefings, and specific ones focused on local information, lifestyle or social-oriented content etc., offered for free. There is also a newsletter in English for international audiences which carries editorials on the current affairs in Poland.

The team creates newsletters based on user data. They segment users according to their engagement patterns, history of payments, propensity to buy or churn, and the type of content they like.

Tools based on AI algorithms are used to develop a better understanding of readers’ behavior and needs. Surveys and polls are also used to gain audience insights.

“In this process we ask ourselves many questions: how can we find a niche? What do our users need? How are they different from other users? What kind of valuable offer can we create for them? Are they ready to buy or do we still need to engage them? How best can we reach them?” says Breguła. 

Our readers get the same content on editorial part of the website, but they see different marketing messages on the website and on social media, as well as get different content via e-mails. With the help of our data team we made some indicators based e.g. on number of page views, days from the last visit and many more factors. 

Danuta Breguła, Director of Online Strategy of Gazeta Wyborcza

The ability to answer these questions efficiently has played a vital role in their success. Bregula comments, “Our editorial, promotional and marketing efforts have paid off – in January this year, users read Wyborcza.pl newsletters 1M times; while in October – 2M.”

He adds, “The key issue is to find topics that are really useful or interesting for a target group of readers. Once you have a profiled e-mail database and send popular, free of charge newsletters, you can target their users with subscription offers.

“They are already your readers and – as many of them choose every day to read more and more –they become also your customers.”

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