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Subscription conversions: Balancing audience frustration and engagement

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When it comes to converting your audience into members or subscribers, it is essential to find the perfect balance between frustration and engagement. But, like many things, it is easier said than done.

Too much frustration and a user leaves your site to find content elsewhere. Leave too much content open and you may well increase engagement but fail to increase your revenues.

And, to complicate matters further, this 'perfect balance' is different for every publisher depending on the audience, content and strategy. So where to start in finding your perfect balance? Let's dissect the issue.

What causes engagement?

Although engagement is measured differently amongst publishers, one well-recognised definition of engagement is the RFV score (the combination of recency, frequency and volume):

Recency - The number of days since a user last visited your site

Frequency - This measurement can be about how often the user visits your site or how often they actually consume content.

Volume - The quantity of content consumed and interactions made with your site. In other words, are their visits of high quality?

To increase these metrics, you can consider employing engagement strategies to counterbalance any frustration felt by your user when faced with the paywall. The decision of which to use depends on your strategy, content and audience but examples include:

  • Access to content, simply leaving content open to non-subscribed users (e.g. a freemium or metered approach)
  • High quality content, including opening access to premium content to allow users to discover the value of your subscription offers (e.g. discovery passes or free trials)
  • Interactive content, including comment sections, the ability to debate, quizzes, etc.
  • Personalisation: an account space, UX features that allow the user to follow topics or an adapted home page, just like Netflix
  • Soft conversion steps, including newsletter sign-ups (a great habit-forming tool) or registration (which allows you to collect first-party data to target marketing campaigns)

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