For online publishers, establishing different digital distribution channels, monetizing them, and building an engaged audience are equally as important as creating high-quality content in the first place.
For Bucharest-based Romania Insider, the challenge is no different, and the English-language publisher has struggled to achieve the balance between readership engagement, growth and profitability.
Eleven years on from its launch in 2010, however, and the news website is now a firmly established part of the Romanian media landscape with 460,000 unique visitors each month. Not bad for a publisher with just four full-time journalists.
Part of the publisher’s success is down to its content niche. By making Romanian news accessible to a worldwide audience through its use of English, the publisher has tapped into a far wider audience than most of its bigger competitors.
Subscription and membership drive
Monetization has been a persistent challenge and, like many online publishers, relying solely on advertising has been an unsustainable strategy.
To diversify its revenue streams, the publisher has branched out to produce an English-language Romania travel guide, an English-language Romanian media briefing for C-Suite execs, and more recently a ‘community membership program’ which provides exclusive content and access to a host of information tools and data.
We have a clear focus on adding value to our community members. We have realized in the past year that we could do better in communicating our added value to our readers and especially to our members.
Our plan now is to focus on communicating better with our members and offer more benefits and services to them compared to non-paying readers.Volker Moser, Partner, Romania Insider
Membership tiers start at 3€ for a ‘Fan’, 5.5€ for a ‘Supporter’, and 14€ for an ‘Ultra’, all of whom are invited to participate in the publisher’s private Facebook Group encouraging ‘super engagement’ between the publisher and its readers.
The publisher has also doubled down on newsletters as a core part of its strategy, offering five free newsletters and five premium newsletters across a range of topics, with varying frequency. Newsletter subjects include a daily briefing, real estate, careers, cooking, travel, and business start-ups.
Another key part of the publisher’s strategy has been to develop and create its own mobile app, a risky strategy for a publisher with limited resources. Perhaps even riskier was the publisher’s decision to paywall its mobile app entirely with free access limited to one article per month for free.
The app offers two options of subscriptions both of which are auto-renewable at 3.99€/month or 34.99€/year.
The conversions of our app paywall were far higher than we expected, as we had a stable number of active readers for our apps, a readership base that was built over time.
We have reached several hundred app subscribers already, mostly organically, and the number of our app downloads has not dropped significantly, as we had feared.Corina Chirileasa, co-founder and Managing Partner of Romania Insider
The app was developed by specialist app and digital publishing platform, PressPad, who told WNIP that a major factor in the app’s success is its pricing strategy which focuses on readers with a clear propensity to pay. Other details of note:
- Subscriptions may be managed by the app user who can select a 1 or 12-month option.
- Subscription automatically renews unless it is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period (auto-renewal may be turned off by going to the user’s Account Settings after purchase).
- An account is charged for renewal within 24-hours prior to the end of the current period.
- Users can cancel subscriptions at any time.
The app was a huge success with almost 10,000 opens in the first 2 months after launch. People fell in love with it. Such was the impact, Romania Insider changed their CMS from WordPress to Joomla, and we rebuilt the app so that it works with their new platform.Paulina Kubala, Marketing Specialist, PressPad
For Romania Insider, the future is one of diversification, expanding its revenue streams, but also deepening its engagement with readers.
A key challenge for such a small team will be how to keep focused on the core content and not get too thinly spread across other activities, a fact acknowledged by Volker Moser, Partner at Romanian Insider.
Moser also adds that getting their membership and subscription right is going to be crucial – from the membership tiers, to the offers, to the subscription software itself.
We also need to understand data and reader flows better, including the motivation and reasons of readers to sign up for a membership or not, and to which type.
We have budgeted significant investments in subscription software, as we think this is our future.Volker Moser, Partner, Romania Insider