Let's talk


October 17, 2022 | Authored by: Vindicia Team

3 ways publishers can reduce subscriber churn

Readers and publishers both suffer from the negative effects of churn.

Obviously, publishers hate seeing readers suddenly cancel a subscription. For publishers, losing a long-term subscriber is upsetting for both the brand and bottom line.

However, readers also hate it when their subscription is suddenly terminated due to a simple mistake such as forgetting to update their subscription with a new credit card number or billing address. There they are, in the middle of reading a hard-hitting series of crime reporting, or need to know business information, when bam, the content is blocked. Then, they get a message like: “You’ve lost access to this content. Please contact customer service to fix the issue with your payment method.” After a few moments of uncertainty, some will make the effort required to rectify the situation. Others will seek out information elsewhere.

Having their subscription suddenly end—which is the nature of cancellations due to payment errors—disrupts the subscriber’s experience and may cause them to lose trust in the reliability of your publication. However, this disruptive experience is avoidable with the right strategy and infrastructure.

Read on to discover some tried and true strategies that help publishers (like the ones we work with) keep readers more connected to their digital subscriptions. Try these tested methods to defeat subscriber churn: 

1. Diligently remind subscribers of the amazing content they’re paying for

Getting the most value of a publishing subscription takes on different meanings for different folks. One thing is for sure: people like to stay informed of the valuable content that their subscription provides. And, significantly, low usage is the primary indicator that readers are about to cancel a subscription.

Help your readers stay engaged by keeping them updating about new content and reminding them of new features and updates that would enable them to use the subscription more often. Sending out brief reminder emails reminds your readers that their subscription has value.  

Refinery29 does a great job at reminding its readers. The weekly newsletter makes a list of seven to ten most popular articles, slaps on a catchy email subject line to entice readers to open the email, and makes every article mentioned linkable so the reader can easily go to the main website. This is a genius combination that generates high open rates and CTRs.

2. Connect digital and physical subscription experiences

Sometimes a digital subscription isn’t enough. Readers may want the option to receive hard copies or to read some articles on their tablets. Connecting the digital and physical subscription experiences is a must for publications to truly thrive in 2023.

Reader’s Digest regularly sends mailers and emails asking subscribers for their preferences, announcing new features and editions, and letting subscribers know about subscriptions outside of publishing that they’ve partnered with. For Conde Nast, readers are the first to be aware of when a print-only publication is also being offered digitally.

Beyond this, publishers are getting smarter about partnerships that connect the value of their content to physical experiences. We’re seeing a good number of publishers teaming up with different brands in different industries outside of the publishing world. These partnerships enable readers to access new deals for food delivery, takeout, personal care, cleaning supplies, and more. If you’re a publisher thinking about creating partnerships, how do you pick the right partners and optimize earnings? Audience match is key, and those insights are baked into subscription intelligence.

3. Fix the No. 1 cause of cancellations and interruptions: failed payments

Many in media think of payment transactions as technical, backend stuff to worry about. But maintaining a seamless subscription experience means that publishers have to focus on organizing transactions in a way that will maximize the likelihood that they will not fail.

Payments that fail constitute 70% of potential revenue that could never be recovered again. In the subscription world, losing a paying reader can mean losing the present and future relationship that comes with each reader. That is why providing a good payments experience is key for retaining paying subscribers. It’s important to recover failed payments and prevent them from happening by keeping an eye on the following most common reasons for payments failure.

The most popular reasons that payments fail are: An outdated credit card number that the reader didn’t update the subscription about; errors in entering credit card information such as the wrong expiration month; insufficient funds; or change in billing address. Any of these common occurrences can happen.

Consider using software and subscription intelligence to salvage these transactions when they fail and to proactively set transactions up in a way that maximizes each transaction’s success rate. Publishers such as Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News love the robustness and effectiveness of our software for recouping lost subscribers and revenue.

No churn = more return

Publishers—it’s disheartening to lose the readers whom you’ve worked so hard to acquire, nurture, and entertain. Publishing companies can do more to prevent readers from churning. By regularly reminding subscribers of the amazing content they’re paying for, expanding partnerships with brands outside of publishing, and by fixing failed payments on the backend, publishers can provide readers with more reasons to get value from their subscriptions. And more value means less reasons to cancel.

This piece was also published by the nonprofit international trade association for the digital content industry: Digital Content Next.

About Author

Vindicia Team

Vindicia Team

We value our subject matter experts and the insights each of them brings to the table. We want to encourage more thought leaders to come together and share their industry knowledge through our blog. Think you have something interesting to contribute as a guest blogger? Contact us at info@vindicia.com