Following the news that the Financial Times, the business newspaper title, has gained one million subscribers, the wider publishing industry is now witnessing the power that an engagement-focused membership model now holds and assessing where else this approach might apply.

Not only is the landmark of a million paying subscribers extremely impressive by itself, just a few weeks ago, the company hit that target “more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Cair O’Riordan, the FT’s chief product and innovation officer. (For a full treatment of the FT’s subscriber strategies, read WARC’s in-depth report: How measuring engagement gained the Financial Times 1 million subscribers.)

To do so, the firm very quickly came to an important conclusion: “unsurprisingly, the biggest factor that determines whether any FT subscriber will continue to stay with us is how engaged they are with our content”, said O’Riordan. “If they’re not engaged they’ll churn; but by contrast, if they are engaged they will stick with us for a very, very long time.”

It comes down to re-framing the problem of competition: it’s not so much the threat of the Economist or the Times, O’Riordan says, but rather readers’ limited attention. Measurement boiled down to three core metrics that would give an idea of engagement:
  • Recency – when people last came to the site.
  • Frequency – how often they came in any given time period.
  • Volume – the amount of content they consume when there.
The importance of engagement is difficult to overstate when talking about maintaining subscription and membership businesses.

In a report on membership organisations, Sam Jordan, EVP, Media and Membership at Manifesto Growth Architects, explained that engagement was core to any business based on membership – it not only maintains and strengthens the relationship but unlocks new revenue opportunities. (For an in-depth report on membership businesses, read WARC’s report: On the economics of Membership.)

“Engagement is actually the thing that powers all those different revenue opportunities,” Jordan explained. “It’s the thing that keeps somebody being a subscriber. It’s the platform that creates the opportunity for transactional revenue, and it magnifies the value of an advertising or affiliate business.”

But ultimately, membership organisations like the FT must take a lesson from Amazon: the consumer proposition is core to everything, and it is on the strength of this proposition that such a business will survive. It is, fundamentally, a long-term strategy that, for certain firms, is bearing enviable fruit.

Sourced from WARC