BASB Roundtable Series: Using Content to Drive Subscriptions

Mar 11, 2021

Building a subscription business

At a Glance...

Summary of the virtual roundtable hosted by In Digital as part of the Winter Roundtable series, with the Building a Subscription Business collective, focusing on the use of content in driving subscriptions and customer revenue in business.

We’re thrilled to have hosted our virtual roundtable as part of the ‘Building a Subscription Business’ collective, marking the third and final instalment of the Winter Roundtable series, following previous sessions from our partners at PugPig and Manifesto Growth Architects

The topic for the evening was content, and more specifically – “how content can, and should, be used to drive subscriptions and customer revenue within the subscription-based model business”. 

2020 was undoubtedly a turbulent year for each of our businesses within the media and publishing industry, yet one silver living, industry-wide, was a considerable uptick in the volume of individuals starting subscriptions, as well as an increased public willingness to pay for digital content. 

This then places the weight of paid content back on the forefront when it comes to marketing in 2021 and onwards. We know that content plays a vital role in both acquisition and retention for the growth of any company, and so now we want to dig into how, and with this being the ‘crux’ of our evening, we split the discussion into the following talking points, with key takeaways summarised below: 

How can historically disparate marketing, audience and editorial teams work most effectively?

As both the consumption of news and consumer demand fluctuates and shifts, previously distanced teams must be quick to adapt with a direct-response attitude. In order to work effectively and increase in-house relationships, the focus needs to be on breaking down existing walls and barriers. One way in which this is often manifested is through KPIs – whilst teams will undoubtedly have their own focused targets, an overriding north star should always be visible to all, where all parties work collaboratively and in a transparent manner in order to reach that end goal. 

The discussion then turned to processes, and why one should never be held ransom to legacy and tech – there is no reason why teams must stick to a way of work, a piece of technology or a certain ‘role’. When it comes to making change, more often that not many team members will be hesitant and resistant to stepping outside of comfort zones, but by opening up communication between teams, and encouraging a more collaborative work approach, the output, a cohesive workflow can be achieved. Joining the dots is key, and whether that is changing behaviours, workstyles, attitudes or processes, being aligned as a business stimulates growth.

Where does content play the most effective role across our prospective audiences?


This next question revolves around the role of content within the acquisition funnel, whether content-driven marketing is best used as an awareness tactic, or in fact intrinsic to the acquisition journey. There is certainly a case for free content driving engagement and brand reach, but is real purpose to show the depth of content available, used as a final hook to push people over the line at the bottom?

In many cases, this is not a siloed approach, all-or-nothing. What is clear is the need for quality content, and more specifically, personalised content – how can content be customised to help people find what they are looking for and more. For one speaker, the future of charging more for media is all about customisation and finding that ‘stickiness’ factor. When we consider the limited attention span of users, those first few seconds are key, and where content really does need to work hard.

What is the right balance and value exchange between free and restricted content?

Every business will have its own model when it comes to free vs gated content, and one size will never fit all. However, another side to this debate it to ask whether the focus need not be on how much data is given for free, but more importantly the reader sentiment – will people data exchange in order to read a given topic? Should this apply to all of a given subject area, or more the type of news itself?

As always, testing is key, highlighting the need to measure content directly alongside consumption. Here we can draw upon the RVF score model, and how recency, frequency and volume should also be key metrics when it comes data analysis of the efficacy of content.

Lastly, we know that data is central to how subscription-based businesses operate, and registrations are at the heart of that. So, the last point that must be considered is the balance between how much content is needed to build a relationship with readers, and how much is a sensible point to capture data, and more specifically 1st party data.

If you’d like to find out more about the collective, head over to Building a Subscription Business. Or, if you’d like to register interest for new events, get in touch the organisers here.


Kate Lindars, Performance Marketing Executive



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