August was an important month for all of us at The Post and Courier. From moving to a brand new office to celebrating the legacy of Mitch Pugh’s time here while welcoming Autumn Phillips into the Executive Editor role, we also hit a major (digital) milestone. We are now have more than 20,000 digital subscribers, so we’d like to share how we got here.
As of January 2016, we had just 1,027 digital subscriptions. And, one year later, we started working with the Pointer Project. From the beginning, we focused on growing our digital audience, both as a new growth and to activate our print subscribers digitally. Between 2017 and January of 2020, we grew only by about 2,000 digital subscribers a year. Then, we were about to see some big change coming our way.
In 2020 we had several major changes that helped accelerate our growth, the first was our participation in the Facebook Accelerator program. This gave us coaches and a cohort to learn from and share ideas. The second was the addition of Stephanie Dill, our Digital Marketing Manager, who came on board in February of 2020. In January of 2020, for reference, we reported 7,814 digital subscriptions.
With the addition of a dedicated marketing person, the digital subscriber team was able to create engaging and unique content, harness the strong journalism content to attract an audience, foster the subscriber relationships we already had plus create a retention campaign, and encourage new conversions by way of newsletters, social media, contests, and events. Once in place, the Digital Subscription Team has worked closely with various departments to monitor our digital subscription growth and to constantly work towards the goal of getting The Post and Courier in as many hands as possible across the state. Today, that number exceeds 20,000.
We gather potential subscribers in a number of ways. One of the highest converters is our free newsletters throughout each of our markets based on various news topics of interest and frequencies. Not only do we get a good idea of what our readers are interested in, we also have a chance to encourage a reader to become a paid subscriber. Our highest converting newsletters are historically Business, Food, and Politics. We also include opt-ins on every event we host as well as in recap emails to attendees based on the topic.
Another way we encourage new opt-ins (and, of course, subscriptions) is through contests. With a special focus on our expansion markets, a contest allows us to give away a memorable prize but also encourages opt-ins to various newsletters depending on what we’d like to promote by market. For example, just this summer we ran a very popular statewide contest for a Grilling Bundle which earned us a combined 2,865 opt-ins to our newsletters. By gathering as many opt-ins as possible, we fill our marketing funnels with potential subscribers and can target them based on what we know they enjoy.
In addition, refining our social media by providing tracking and costs as well as taking on our lead gen process to encourage signups to newsletters across South Carolina has been another huge boost to our opt-ins and overall conversions.
We worked to create an onboarding plan that both informs and invites new subscribers to make the most of their subscriptions. By knowing the endless access and various benefits from contests to subscriber-exclusive events, each subscriber is immediately aware and focused on the value they receive and why their support matters.
Combining these efforts with truly intriguing creativity and being flexible to make changes has been helpful to the overall process of attracting and retaining subscribers.
Our biggest (and most successful) project launched earlier this summer. In June, we started marketing the $4 for 4 campaign through ads, social media, and email blasts. This ongoing collaborative project with the Newsroom, Development, Customer Service and Marketing helped to offer new readers and those readers who had not yet subscribed an all-access glimpse at our award-winning coverage. This campaign continues to be a success and certainly helped to propel our digital subscriptions to 20k. To date, 5,077 people have subscribed from the offer with only 3% churned or due to expire so far.
Thanks in large part to our expansion markets, we have seen incredible subscription numbers across the state.
Now that we’ve exceeded 20,000 digital subscriptions, we continue to move forward. We look ahead to retaining our $4 for 4-month subscribers and continuing to grow our audience. This is no small feat and takes a true team effort from all of us at The Post and Courier.
*****This article was written by Subscriber and Donor Engagement Specialist, Mary Fox*****