We have previously discussed the importance of determining a strategic direction to clearly outline, define, and communicate what you are trying to accomplish as an organisation. By doing so, organisations can more effectively prioritise alignment with strategic objectives, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of resources, and invest in key growth areas to maximise market potential.
While this is a critical first step, it is only the beginning of a long journey to achieving a sustainable business model built on digital subscription revenue. As a reminder, this is the seven-lever digital subscription framework:
After determining the strategic direction, publishers often wonder: How do we structure our organisation to align with our north star business goals? How do we communicate internally to make sure the entire organisation is then aligned with the strategic vision?
It’s now time to focus on the second of the seven steps — organisational alignment — for developing and implementing a sustainable business model driven by reader revenue. Here are the key themes in building an aligned organisation for digital subscription growth:
Start with alignment at the top
For publishers working toward building a strong digital subscriptions business, organisational alignment starts at the executive level in the newsroom, audience, marketing, product, and IT functions. To execute strategic plans, these executives need to be in lockstep to execute effectively.
Furthermore, lack of buy-in from the leader of one of these functional groups can permeate into the organisation. If the newsroom leadership is focused more on pageviews than engagement, or if the head of product deprioritises the development of key subscription features, there can be significant challenges in executing across the organisation.
While strategic objectives can sometimes clash, as is often the case in print vs. digital and subscription vs. advertising priorities, creating alignment at the top is critical to driving alignment across the organisation.
Foster cross-functional collaboration
Ensuring top executives are in sync may be a starting point, but strategy execution is carried out at the mid and lower levels of the organisation. Many key objectives for growing digital subscriptions require execution across the news, product, data, and marketing functions. This is where fostering a culture of collaboration and minimising siloed departments is so important.
To break down siloes, publishers can encourage cross-functional coordination through mission-based teams set up to work together to solve specific issues. With mission-based teaming, members of the organisation are better able to understand the bigger picture, be efficient and effective, and feel like they are responsible and working toward something bigger than their individual function.
The Innovation Report by the New York Times in 2014 can now be seen clearly as a key turning point for the organisation. The report was an honest self-assessment that emphasised even the best news organisations creating leading journalism will not succeed unless the organisation and delivery model are willing to transform to be successful in the digital age.
This process can be uncomfortable at first. For some within the organisation, a new strategic direction can mean a significant shift in job responsibilities. For others, it can change the way successful job performance is measured. While it may uncomfortable for some, honest self-assessment is one of the crucial first steps to building strong organisational alignment.
Build a culture of experimentation
As a corollary to an honest self-assessment, publishers need to leverage that openness to develop a model of constant testing and optimisation. In essence, a culture of experimentation.
There will certainly be some strategies and initiatives that are not successful, but constant testing, whether subject headers for newsletters, paywall settings, or offers and discounts, will yield real results for publishers both in the short- and long-term.
Strategy, structure, and culture must work in harmony in order to realise your organisation’s digital subscription potential. Those with both strategic direction and organisational alignment will have the foundation to build toward digital subscription success.