Washington Post amps up Arc with subscription tools

The Washington Post is supercharging its platform Arc, with a big marketing and development push. Photo: 1941 Willys Americar 441 Coupe Hotrod, by Sicnag, from Flickr

Hello new subscribers! Welcome from Suchandrika Chakrabarti‘s great post on newsletters that freelancers should subscribe to.

Topping today’s newsletter is a story about new subscription features that the Washington Post is building into its CMS, Arc. As I highlighted in a recent newsletter, the Washington Post sees Arc as business that can grow to $100m as it sells the CMS to other publishers. This feels like a major push for Arc.

Also in the newsletter:

If you are just seeing this and haven’t subscribed to the newsletter, sign up here. And please, if you spot a good story – especially a good media story outside of the US – let me know on Twitter @kevglobal.

Swedish publisher built a “time wall” and increased conversion 20%


Clock shop, Siliguri, West Bengal, by Christopher J. Flynn, Wikimedia Commons

One of my next features for What’s New in Publishing will be about different paid content models that tap into motivations beyond metered paywalls. My motivation is that metered paywalls work well for high-volume sites, but I’ve managed local sites for the last several years of my career. And a metered paywall isn’t necessarily the right solution for lower-volume local sites.

That’s why I featured this story from Digiday about MittMedia in Sweden and their “time wall” in my international media newsletter today. The 20 per cent increase in conversions definitely caught my eye. Basically, the idea is that a story is available for free for a limited amount of time.

I also know that paid content services such as LaterPay and Agate, both run by FoK (Friends of Kevin), have other time-based concepts including day-passes, month-passes or all you can eat after you have read a set number of articles on an Agate-enabled site. It’s a great way to get people into the conversion funnel.

A hearty thank you to another FoK, Suchandrika Chakrabarti, who mentioned the newsletter today on Muck Rack, 18 newsletters every freelance journalist needs to subscribe to. It’s always nice to be mentioned in the same article as Nieman Lab and Journalism.co.uk.

And as always, there is plenty more in the newsletter – usually another seven to nine articles. If you want to subscribe, there is a sign up form on Nuzzel profile, and feel free to send along story ideas on Twitter to @kevglobal, especially ones outside of the US.

The Economist: Shifting from “gut feel” to a data-driven paywall strategy

Data driven, by John Spencer, from Flickr

I’m back from a much-needed mini-break so Tuesday is the new Monday, well at least for me this week. Up first today in today’s media newsletter is a review of a talk by Adam Davison, the Head of Insight and Data Science at The Economist. The great write-up by Esther Kezia Thorpe looks at the evolution of The Economist’s paid content strategy over the last 20 years. This really builds on the post I highlighted last week that pointed out that businesses that get better are businesses that get smarter. They are constantly working and refining their model.

The killer quote by Davison was this one in which the business was trying to evaluate the trade-offs to certain business decisions whether that was advertising versus reader revenue or the number of articles that a reader had access to before hitting the paywall. Davison said:

Historically, we’ve not been very data-driven when evaluating these trade-offs basically. It’s been very much sort of…business strategy gut feel, maybe a little bit of data here and there, but probably not used anything like as effectively as it could have been. So I think with this latest transition, I really wanted to try to do this the right way, use data to be as informed as possible when we made this decision.


Inside the Economist’s data-driven paywall evolution, Esther Kezia Thorpe, What’s New in Publishing

Read the whole piece, but the other thing that really stood out was how their data strategy has changed. The Economist has had to break down data silos in their business. They had data and talented analysts across the business, but they worked in isolation.

I have seen this in the work that I do. Editorial teams have data, usually quantitative, but marketing teams often have more information about the habits and preferences of audiences. Both pools of data can be useful to the other team.

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to the newsletter, and if you haven’t already, you can get the full list of stories in your inbox. Subscribe here, and if there is a story that you think should be included, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal.

How to grow paying subscribers by 2000%? Easy. Evolution.

Pieces of paper with the words money, growth and business printed on them with 2019 spelled out in US coins.

2019 – Das Jahr des Wachstums, Geldes und Geschäftes, by Marco Verch, Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

The top story in my media business newsletter today definitely challenges conventional wisdom. Trevor Kaufman, the CEO of paid content platform Piano, says that most people believe that when you launch a paid content strategy that you grow at first but then plateau as you convert the core of your addressable market. I have to admit that from most of the examples that I have seen and even some media properties that I have managed that this is the case.

“After all, once you convert the converted, who is left?” he asks rhetorically. He goes on to challenge that view and says that Piano is finding that those publishers that invest in working their conversion funnel get better at converting.

We took a random sampling of our customers that have been in business between four and nine quarters, comparing their first two quarters with their last two. We found those with just a year behind them experienced increases of up to 50% in their average number of new monthly subscribers. And for those with nine quarters behind them, growth rates reached more than 2000% on average.


Attention, investment in digital subscriptions results in 2000% growth, Trevor Kaufman, INMA

Conversely, those clients who didn’t work it, didn’t invest, didn’t learn not only plateaued but declined. And I think Kaufman points out another key difference: The companies that invested and excelled changed their business, just like the New York Times has, to subscription-focused businesses.

There is a lot about paid content in today’s newsletter including an updated overview of pay models for online news by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Let me know if there are any stories that you’d like to see in the newsletter. I’m @kevglobal on Twitter.

How the Washington Post tracked Trump’s 10,000 falsehoods

Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office to become the nation’s 45th president and commander in chief at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. White House photo

In today’s newsletter, we take a look at the fact-checking operation at the Washington Post that manages a database of 10,000 falsehoods spoken, tweeted and otherwise communicated by the 45th president of the United States. The official tally is 10,111 “false or misleading claims” in 828 days in office as of 27 April. How are they managing this?

Each member of (Glenn Kessler’s) three-person team picks a day of the week to sift through Trump’s tweets, speeches and media appearances for potential claims to add to the database. Each person generally picks up two days, and in practice, someone usually ends up losing their weekend.

“It’s now become a bit of a burden because it consumes so much time,” Kessler said. “I’m trying to figure out how we can handle more of this during the week. I don’t know what we’ll do when it comes to campaign season and he’s holding three rallies a day.”


How The Washington Post tallied more than 10,000 Trump falsehoods in less than three years , by Daniel Funke, Poynter

They have added up the time spent, and Kessler said that they have worked an extra 118 8-hour workdays. The project was initially only supposed to last the first 100 days of his presidency, but readers actually called and emailed asking for the project to continue. That’s brilliant.

In addition to that, we also have:

If you’ve got a story that you’d like me to include, say hello over on Twiter, @kevglobal.

Choosing the right membership (or subscription) model

Members only, friendly yet authoritative sign, by John Bell, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Suchandrika Chakrabarti has an excellent overview for freelancers on writing your own bio through writing ones for her first year of being freelance.

In addition to that post, the other highlight from my newsletter today is an excellent look at the hottest issues in media right now: Membership and subscriptions. It’s a comprehensive look at various subscription models and services, but they also talk about a membership model in Albany New York. The newspaper there has tiers, “providing options for the customer”, according to Brad Hunt sales and retention manager for Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. “Instead of losing them outright or feeling like we were forcing them to go to a higher frequency in order to get to that gold status, we wanted to provide the means for the customer to choose,” he said.

More tomorrow, and remember, if you want to highlight a story for me, let me know on Twitter @kevglobal.

The Age of the Freelancer: Should journalism contests rethink their fees?

Will Write Poems for Food, by Taymaz Valley, Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

In today’s newsletter, we find an example that runs counter or Betteridge’s Law. For my non-British readers, Betteridge’s Law, coined and named after Ian Betteridge is:

This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no.” The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.

Betteridge’s law of headlines, Wikipedia

That is a long-winded way of saying that in this case the answer might be yes, the question asked might be “yes”.

Nieman Lab looks at why journalism contests should rethink their fee structure as more and more journalists find themselves freelancing whether they like it or not.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti, my friend and former collaborator when she worked for Trinity-Mirror (now Reach) flagged this up from the newsletter today. She has not only launched her own freelance journalism career but also the wonderful Freelance Pod.

And this LinkedIn post of hers is definitely going into the newsletter tomorrow. She starts the post off with:

It’s the anniversary of my third redundancy! Also, it’s a year since I went freelance. Let’s talk about it.

Looking back on a year of freelancing, via my third-person biographies, Suchandrika Chakrabarti

If you spot something that you think deserves to be in tomorrow’s newsletter, flag it up to me on Twitter, @kevglobal, and if you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter yet, you can here.

A worksheet from the New Yorker to help you develop your newsletter

Pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical intellectual, and deist, Paine is shown here, in the town of his birth, with a copy of his most celebrated work, ‘Rights of Man’, published in 1791. by Robert Alexander

I’m in the process of developing a daily newsletter at my day job, so newsletter strategy is at the forefront of my mind. That’s why it was super helpful that in the top story of today’s newsletter there is an interview with Dan Oshinsky, who oversees newsletter strategy for The New Yorker. GEN interviewed Oshinsky on how they develop newsletters. Not only is there several good points in the interview, but there is also a link to a worksheet that the New Yorker uses in developing its newsletters. It’s a really handy resource.

In building the organisational case that of all of the digital things we could do that we needed to prioritise a newsletter over other things, I pulled on a lot of data and analysis that newsletters are critical to building a loyal audience primed for membership. I work for one of the longest member-driven media groups in the US, a regional NPR/PBS group, and this is

One of my go-to quotes on newsletter strategy comes from an earlier review of newsletters at The New Yorker and Oshinsky’s thinking in which they found:

Last year, Condé Nast’s data science team built a model to predict which factors best determine whether a NewYorker.com reader will become a subscriber. Whether someone was a newsletter subscriber was the No. 1 indicator. Thus, The New Yorker can draw a straight line between the quality of its newsletter readership and its bottom line: more newsletters subscribers, in turn, means more paid readers.


With its new newsletter director, The New Yorker wants to experiment with standalone and international-focused products, by Ricardo Bilton, Nieman Lab

In addition to newsletter strategy, there is also a really good look at the 1000 true fans theory and what that means for journalism start-ups.

Have a great weekend. And if you have a story, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal, and if you want to subscribe to the newsletter, it’s easy to do here.

Slate expects almost half of its revenue to come from podcasts

Headphones on a baby, by Gideon Tsang, from Flickr

The top story in the newsletter today reminds me how reader revenue, whether that be through subscriptions or memberships, is remaking media. Digiday is reporting that Slate expects nearly half of its revenue to come from podcasts, but the thing that stands out is Slate sees this as supporting their subscription model, Slate Plus. They aren’t looking for syndication deals. It’s all about building a loyal, paying audience on their own platform. How times have changed. From Digiday:

But where some of the newer scripted podcast producers are eyeing the big checks that platforms such as Luminary are writing, Slate sees them as a way to build its own business. Kammerer said that while Slate has had discussions with podcast platforms about licensing or producing exclusive shows for platforms, it has declined to pursue them because it is more interested in using its shows to build Slate Plus.

Slate expects nearly half of its revenue will come from podcasts this year, by Max Willens, Digiday

And I also want to highlight Reach PLC (formerly Trinity-Mirror and also a former client of my consultancy, Ship’s Wheel Media) and their efforts to try to bring some comity to the discussions around Brexit with their Britain Talks project. Their efforts to engage audiences, not only with their journalism but also in broader issues, really impresses me, and I appreciate more than most the challenging business environment that they are operating in.

As always, if you have a media business story that you think I should highlight in the newsletter, let me know on Twitter @kevglobal. And you can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Who’ll be disenfranchised in the EU elections?

The EU elections have a lot riding on them, and because of the way we elect MEPs, it’s critical for Remainers to know who has a real chance of getting in. In several areas of the UK, Remainers won’t get an MEP unless we’re really careful about who we vote for.

As my last post explained, the d’Hondt voting system is not proportionally representative. Small parties are penalised and large parties get an advantage, but with current polling data, who’s going to pull the short straw?

This YouGov/Hope Not Hate poll does split its results out into the EU voting regions, of which there are 12, although it does not poll in Northern Ireland, so only 11 regions are represented, accounting for 70 of the total 73 MEP seats.

I sat down with this data the other day and worked out roughly how the seats would be distributed under d’Hondt. It’s a bit tricky, because the data has been rounded to the nearest whole figure, meaning that sometimes you end up with a draw that would be extremely unlikely with real voting data. In these cases, I’ve tried to apportion the seats realistically, but that’s obviously a judgement call.

The table below shows how the national averages results I calculated earlier in the week (including Northern Ireland, so 73 seats) compare to the regionalised results (without NI, 70 seats)

PartyRegionalNational
Conservative910
Labour1922
Liberal Democrats31
SNP/PCY40
Green58
UKIP00
Brexit2727
Change-TIG35
Other00

The regional results really do make quite a difference to the overall outcome, which emphasises how important it is to understand which Remain party is doing well in your region and to vote for them.

But because of the way that d’Hondt works, parties below a certain vote percentage threshold won’t get any representation at all. The fewer the number of seats available in that region, the higher the threshold to win a seat. If you vote for a minority party, your vote won’t count because your party won’t be allocated an MEP seat.

In the final column of this table, the top value is the percentage of all the votes that were cast for parties that did not win a seat. I’ve then split that out in to the percentage of all votes cast for Leave, Remain and other parties that did not win a seat.

RegionNo of seats availableWho winsHow many votes
don’t count?
North East3Labour
Brexit
32% in total
12% Leave
19% Remain
1% other
North West9Labour
Greens
Brexit
27% in total
15% Leave
22% Remain
Yorkshire and the Humber6Tories
Labour
Brexit
32% in total
5% Leave
26% Remain
1% other
East Midlands5Tories
Labour
Green
Brexit
21% in total
6% Leave
15% Remain
West Midlands7Tories
Labour
Brexit
27% in total
5% Leave
21% Remain
1% other
East of England7Tories
Labour
Brexit
Change-TIG
22% in total
5% Leave
17% Remain
London8Tories
Labour
LibDems
Greens
Brexit
Change-TIG
5% in total
3% Leave
1% Remain
1% other
South East10Tories
Labour
LibDems
Greens
Brexit
Change-TIG
5% in total
4% Leave
no Remain
1% other
South West6Tories
Labour
LibDems
Greens
Brexit
18% in total
8% Leave
9% Remain
1% other
Wales4Labour
Brexit
46% in total
16% Leave
30% Remain
Scotland6Labour
SNP
Brexit
32% in total
14% Leave
17% Remain
1% other

Basically, if you vote for UKIP, Plaid Cymru or Other, you’re shit out of luck, because they don’t get a single seat in any constituency. Wales is the worst, with a full 46% of voters being essentially disenfranchised. London and the South East both do much more reasonably, with only 5% of all votes not counting.

It’s also clear that because of the Remain vote is split between a number of smaller parties, more Remain voters will find their chosen parties not gaining a seat, and their votes essentially wasted.

The only way for Remainers to make sure that their votes to really count is to keep an eye on the polls and then go for the party in your region that is polling the best. I just hope that someone with better data and better maths than me will start making recommendations soon.