Now central Europe’s biggest newspaper, Agora-owned Gazeta Wyborcza was established in 1989. It has a monthly reach of 18 million uniques, and boasts of 30 local editions.

The company launched its hybrid paywall in 2014 and uses a digital subscription cum advertising business model. However, it was faced with obstacles only a year later, when it found that users disliked the idea of automatic recurring payments even if they did not necessarily have an issue with paying for news.

Ever since, Gazeta Wyborcza has learned to manage its relationship with its subscribers and analyse reader behaviour better. 

The Basic Package is priced at 4, 90 zł (€1.08), the Club Package, which is the highest priced one, sells for 359, 00 zł (€78.80), and the most frequently purchased Premium Package is priced at 199, 00 zł (€43.68).

Katarzyna Ostrowska (Subscriptions Growth Manager, Gazeta Wyborcza) joined WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Africa conference recently to share their learnings from building and strengthening a successful subscription business: 

Offer and pricing

Be sure users understand your message/offering: Do everything possible to listen to your users – read and respond to their comments and emails, answer their calls. 

It is also helpful for publishers to ask themselves if the content they are offering is worth paying for, or if there are any pain points on the purchase path? Do users understand all the features they are paying for? Are there any additional benefits? Once these questions are answered, it will be easier to form key values, explore user needs and set company goals.

Ask users what they want, but be reasonable in those actions: Data from research and surveys is key when it comes to troubleshooting problems about money, content and user needs, and in making future business decisions.

For instance, a year ago, Gazeta Wyborcza only offered two subscription packages. After conducting user surveys and research, they added a third package with additional benefits, changed the billing period and prices and even altered the website landing page.

Upon launching, the brand ran several free trial offers that proved to be a great tool for attracting new users, but terrible for retaining them. The company no longer runs free trials.

Test a lot: Testing helps in making notes about what works in practice. 

Discover: The journey of looking for insights will most likely present interesting cases the brand may otherwise not have chanced upon. Features such as newsletters, apps, “One Day Pass” or “Register and Read” have proven to be proficient in attracting new users and starting their subscription journey. “You gain user data, can investigate if they are ready to pay for your offer and it’s also a good time to make people aware of the value of your content,” Ostrowska said. 

A new and efficient onboarding process

Plagued by troubles, the company made numerous changes to its onboarding process based on educating users about the product, learning about subscribers, starting building reader habits, and establishing a communication channel.

The old 4-day long onboarding system presented several pain points – it was almost impossible to edit without tweaking the code, which translated into a Herculean task for the IT department. It was also not user-action oriented and did not gather enough data beyond the basic CTRs. 

The new onboarding process not only looks aesthetically pleasing, it also works better.

It is now 21 days long, and comprises welcome mails from the editors, news content, additional benefits like newsletters, e-reader, the ability to save an article and surveys. It is written in a friendlier language and provides additional data such as clicks per section, instead of just CTRs.

Gazeta Wyborcza’s engagement rate increased by 57 percent after the introduction of the new onboarding process.

Engagement and newsletters

There are three primary rules the company sticks to, to boost engagement: 

Make sure your users read the content you produce: Track page views.

Check the data every day and look for insights: After a user subscribes, the company signs them up for its daily newsletter, which leads to a higher engagement score, more page views and less churn.

The brand reports a newsletter engagement rate of 95 percent. 

Be flexible in changing your assumptions: Gazeta Wyborcza’s app was launched as a user acquisition driver, but mining through data collected over time led the company to turn around and make it a retention driver, instead. Hence, the app is now accessible only to subscribers with an engagement rate of 80 percent.

Newsroom and subs

Here are a few ideas from Gazeta Wyborcza that may help your business: 

You can’t do everything on your own: Combined teams work better than single units. The company’s editorial team has access to stats about page views, conversion rate, subscriptions sold per article, etc, in the backend dashboard, based on which the journalists plan their day’s tasks. The employees also get bonuses, based on sold articles. In addition, the company uses the Recency, Frequency and Volume (RFV) engagement tool created by UK’s Financial Times. 

Editors should be involved in every action: Their involvement displays brand credibility. Last year, the company hosted a campaign that had its flagship editors telling users about the company’s values, which aided subscription growth.

Surprise your readers: The company employed a non-standard practice when it had one of its editors respond to a user who complained about the content and pricing. “This is not the usual practice here, but tricks such as these, which are not time consuming, prove to be super effective,” Ostrowska said.

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