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Home » “Click-throughs to the main website doubled”: How reformatting a newsletter boosted The Times of India | What’s New in Publishing

“Click-throughs to the main website doubled”: How reformatting a newsletter boosted The Times of India | What’s New in Publishing

Subscriptions Academy, a collaboration between the Google News Initiative (GNI) and FT Strategies, introduced a program in India helping publishers evolve reader revenue models. This feature explores a number of key learnings from The Times of India.

Last year, FT Strategies introduced a program in India aimed at bolstering reader revenue models for five Indian news publishers over a five-month period. The program emphasized FT’s North Star framework, a robust methodology used by the Financial Times to achieve its 1.2M subscribers.

The challenges were complex, not least because the world’s biggest market for news consumption is still heavily print dominated with print media achieving double-digit year-on-year growth as recently as 2021. The COVID pandemic, however, underscored the need for diversification with print circulation revenue falling precipitously by 32%.

The picture is further clouded by the lower propensity of consumers to pay for news combined with restrictive regulations limiting recurring payments – publishers are unable to keep credit card details on file, meaning subscription churn is a key issue. Factor in a population where a third of the population live below the poverty line and the picture becomes increasingly complex.

Google News Initiative Subscriptions Academy India 2022

Newsletter reformatting pays dividends

The Times of India (TOI) is India’s largest-selling English-language daily newspaper, known for its comprehensive news coverage and longstanding reputation. However, while TOI launched a paid digital subscription platform, TOI+, in April 2021, it found that new users were not always clear on the differences between free and paid content. Subscriptions were suffering and the proposition had to be made clearer.

Working with FT Strategies, TOI targeted its newsletter audience to better communicate the proposition, not least because its newsletter audience were highly engaged, educated and digitally savvy. However, the TOI+ value proposition was flawed because the newsletters themselves contained a large amount of free content.

To address this, TOI experimented by reformatting a selected newsletter to include far more paywalled TOI+ content. The experiment immediately saw TOI increase both engagement and subscription sign-ups, with click-throughs to the TOI website doubling and more weekly subscribers generated than previously.

From the engagement metrics session, we got a lot of great ideas on how to define our engagement score – something we’ve been struggling with for a long time. Going through these five months, we have developed our strategies in ways we would not have thought of.

Dhruvi Wali Senior Group Product Manager, TOI+

Overcoming a hard paywall at The Ken

Founded in 2016, The Ken is a successful digital publication that initially only published one long form article a day. It has since evolved to include numerous articles, newsletters, podcasts, as well as offering three separate membership plans, each with bundled products.

However, like many publishers with hard paywalls, The Ken’s challenge was to develop its subscription model while still “preserving its premium DNA and core values”. Working alongside FT Strategies, its chosen route was to allow potential subscribers a lower cost two-week trial, using the publisher’s most relevant stories as an engagement tool for new users.

During the implementation phase, The Ken also built a tech stack allowing them to quickly amend
the parameters of the trial for future iterations.

Success was mixed, but saw stronger results with additional messaging. The campaign’s email strategy also saw acceptable open rates but was hampered by a low click-through rate. The publisher continues to develop and refine its trial promotion.

Designing experiments because the data can support my hypotheses has been a very useful lesson to learn. We are now able to make more of an accurate approximation for success at a step by step level. It’s been helpful to understand how to measure success towards a single goal.

Aditya Agarwal, Product Manager, The Ken

The Full Report, “The Path to Subscriber Conversion: The Outcomes of the India GNI Subscriptions Academy”, is available as a free download here.

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