Gannett, which owns USA Today and has the largest circulation of any media company in the United States, has shifted its business model to a subscription mindset.
Time, a national magazine founded in the early 1920s in New York City and known for its Person of the Year magazine cover and feature, is focused on building a “subscription machine.”
Both publishers are focused on the fundamentals that will solidify their digital subscriptions strategies and shared those strategies on the second day of INMA’s Subscriptions Media Summit on Thursday.
When an entire brand shifts focus, getting the fundamentals set up and changing an entire mindset of the staff must happen to be successful. Mayur Gupta, chief operating and strategy officer at Gannett, brought INMA members through the company’s evolution and journey to mobilising for growth.
Gannett has evolved into a subscription platform with the idea that audience needs must be known to drive the subscription growth. To understand the audience needs, what data can be gathered about the users habits on the platform to find out what the user cares about?
“It no longer matters how many hundreds of millions of people came, but what matters is what the particular individual care about, what does he or she love? What did they do yesterday on the platform so we can create an experience that is of incremental value when they come back today?” Gupta said.
What has Gannett done so far to grow into a subscription-based platform?
“Subscription is a mindset,” he said. “It is way beyond a shift in the business model, beyond a shift in strategy and tactics or data. It fundamentally shifts your culture and what you care about as a business. First and foremost we have to change how we organise ourselves, and the way we operated.”
This meant changing the mindset of everyone at Gannett. The team then created three cross-functional pods.
Grow the brand.
Grow the user base.
Grow the user value.
This concept of cross functional pods then created “The Gannett Rhythm,” which starts with the core of the brand, its purpose and vision, followed by the company goals, functioning objectives and key results, and then down to the cross functional pods.
Gupta detailed how data, experimentation, and key hires continued the transformation.
“We had to shift the way we operated, break down the vertical values of those traditional functions, and create these small units, and change the culture and the mindset to give the units the autonomy to do what they felt they had to do to hit those OKRs (objective key results).”
Although Time is celebrating its 99th birthday next month, the company thinks of itself as “a 100-year-old start-up,” said Laurie Truitt, vice president of consumer growth. In recent years, the company has pushed itself to go beyond being a legacy print magazine. It’s doing that by creating additional brands within the Time “red border” and even venturing into cryptocurrency and NFTs.
As it pushes forward into new territory, Truitt said it requires building a “subscription machine” to move customers down the path.
One way to retain print subscribers is to get them to become digital subscribers “and not just read our content through the magazine,” she said. By following each user’s engagement, they can see when a user drops from a high level of engagement to a lower level, and that will trigger newsletters designed to bring them back to the site on a regular basis.
While newsletters create habit and can drive quality users back to the site, using them to convert users to paid subscribers requires patience: “They’re not going to convert in the first 30 days, or 60 days. We spend a lot of time measuring how long it takes them to become a registered user.”
As they gain more information, Truitt said they constantly iterate and optimise the experiences.
The Summit continues Tuesdays and Thursdays through February 15. You can register here.