10 retention tactics publishers need to know about

Great content is no longer enough to keep audiences engaged.
10 retention tactics publishers need to know about

Great content isn’t enough to keep audiences interested anymore. Every minute there are over 156 million emails being sent, 16 million text messages, 456,000 Tweets, and over 4.1 million YouTube videos being watched. 

That’s a lot for publishers to compete with. But publishers must cut through the noise. They play a critical role for their audiences; sharing trusted news and expertise, in a world that is increasingly distrusting.

Publishers today need to go beyond first-class content. They must do more to retain their subscribers, and to acquire new ones.

Here are 10 ways to retain subscribers, and grow your audience and revenue.

1. Make the best first impression 

Make new subscribers feel welcome as it’ll have a huge impact on how likely they are to remain with you. First impressions count, an onboarding journey that is glitchy, long-winded, or full of irrelevant content will put people off from the start. That will make it harder to convince them to convert, remain with you, or upgrade their subscription. 

Personalizing your onboarding communications, with specific newsletter or article recommendations, community groups to join, or a message from the editor, will help to show a new subscriber that they matter to you. The timing of your communications is also important – too long after sign-up and subscribers will be less likely to engage with your message. 

2. Create connections

Providing connections that make subscribers better at what they do can help to differentiate a publication. Access to industry experts and influencers, for example, will give subscribers exclusive knowledge they cannot get anywhere else. It creates a deeper and more meaningful experience for subscribers, making your brand stand out from competitors and creating stickiness. 

Depending on the connections created (and the discussions and projects that spin out from this) it can also help to foster a sense of belonging and ownership. Especially if a connection stems from a common goal or mission, or it creates a feedback loop with a publisher that impacts the content and future direction of a publication. 

3. Activate participation

The relationship between publisher and subscriber is now a two-way street. Customers are no longer happy with relationships that are just transactional; they want to participate. 

Scientific publisher Springer Nature uses online communities across 20 of their journals, to improve engagement and awareness of their journal portfolio, to amplify the voices of researchers, and build relationships with the scientific community. Initiatives like ‘Behind the Paper’ and ‘After the Paper’ invite authors to participate by telingl the story behind their research, in their own words. These stories provide an informal insight into the human behind the scientific, formal paper.

These initiatives have become a core part of the Springer Nature USP and brand identity. Nearly 3000 posts are contributed every year, and as a results, 60% of authors say they are more likely to submit their next article to Springer Nature.

4. Identify your high-value subscribers

By uncovering your subscribers with high potential customer lifetime value (CLV) you can focus efforts on retaining them to make the biggest impact on your bottom line. Find those most similar to your long-standing customers – a certain job function or industry – and create a dedicated welcome campaign, or opportunities for them to network. They are also more likely to be willing to pay more for additional services, exclusive content or events. 

5. Build subscriber journeys by segment 

Understanding how a subscriber finds your publication, becomes a paying subscriber, and what marketing channels they commonly respond to, will help you create promotions and messaging that resonates with each subscriber. Publishers are in a constant battle for time and attention — a generalized approach will no longer engage and retain audiences. 

Separating your subscribers by segment, based on their behavior, interests, and needs, will help you deliver more relevant content, at the right time, in the right format. Analyzing subscriber data on the channels they use, the times they are online, the content they engage with, and their region/country will help you identify the segments your subscribers fall into. 

6. Become a habit

It takes up to two months for someone to form a new habit. During this time, your site needs to encourage people to keep returning by regularly posting content, sending emails and newsletters, and push notifications. Personalization is key here as people are more likely to engage if prompts are tailored to their interests and needs. 

7. Don’t make silly mistakes

Imagine how annoying it is for an initial sign-up or recurring payment to fail for technical reasons. Prevent involuntary churn by investigating why a payment failed and quickly rectify it if the fault is yours. 

8. Understand why people leave

A 100% retention rate is impossible, but you can get close to it by understanding why subscribers churn. Find the biggest reason for churn and actively address it. Likewise, identify at-risk subscribers and engage with them to boost their retention.

9. Use data

Many of the tactics described above rely on collecting and analyzing data on subscribers’ interests, behaviors, and needs. First-party data is best, as you can control what information you collect. Plus, you don’t have to rely on third parties who may change how they collect data or may completely remove it (as in the case of Google ending cookies in 2023). 

10. Create a community

The answer to creating highly personalized experiences for subscribers lies in a publisher-owned community. It drives active participation, builds an emotional connection, and delivers exclusive knowledge — all ways to make a subscription stickier. Moreover, communities can provide a wealth of first-party data.

Ready to learn more about how communities can help publishers grow and retain audiences? Download Zapnito’s new guide: Audiences to Subscribers.