By Josephine Tay

In recent years, the audience funnel has become a common way to illustrate how people go through a series of stages from being aware of a product or service to becoming an advocate for it.

“It’s important to leverage every step of the funnel because while you’re busy attracting new audiences, other folks are constantly leaving,” said Lissa Cupp, Blue Engine Collaborative, Facebook Accelerator, who moderated the session.

To leverage the funnel is to use the top of the funnel to build brand awareness and reach, before proceeding to the middle of the funnel to move “occasional readers into engaged and known habitual users.”

The bottom of the funnel should be leveraged by converting those readers into “loyalists and keeping them for life.”

Cupp also emphasised the importance of identifying those users who are about to churn and the need to re-engage them.

Three speakers who have gone through the Facebook Journalism Project‘s Reader Revenue Accelerator shared their experiences and learnings.

Case study 1: Sin Chew Media Corporation, Malaysia

Sinchew+ was established in 2019 as a membership programme with three tiers. The regular tier is free and has limited access to benefits and privileges. The second and third tiers, known as VIP and VVIP, are paid memberships with differing benefits.

“These benefits include access to our digital replica premium content site, newspaper subscription and also discounts and perks with our collaborating merchants, partners and clients,” said Tan Lee Chin, COO Content & Commercial from Sin Chew Media Corporation.

Applying the funnel approach to their membership programme, different paid and organic campaigns were implemented to drive Awareness through different platforms such as their website and social media profile.

For instance, readers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine were offered a 50 percent discount for their first subscription.

Referring to Experience, the next level in the funnel, Chin said user experience was extremely important in converting non-subscribers. She revealed key learning points from their checkout audit done during the Reader Revenue Accelerator program by Facebook.

These include product presentation and simplification of the checkout process. In addition, regular members could access previews to VIP articles, where blurbs would entice them towards conversion by emphasising benefits of being a VIP member.

Chin also shared that they had a “huge community of business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to network during the pandemic.” They created an online networking event to fulfil this need for their VIP members, while promoting the event to regular members as well. This strategy proved to be effective in moving regular members down the funnel to become paid subscribers.

“To enhance deliverables and further build loyalty among our members, we have also built a premium content site which is fully accessible by our VIP and VVIP members,” Chin said. “The premium content site serves as a tool for us to manage retention.”

The site also organised small group sessions with guest columnists, medical experts and fengshui masters, to enhance the experience for VIP members. Ten percent of the content on this site was made accessible to regular members, constantly reminding them to become VIP members.

Several virtual events were targeted at conversion by offering exclusive opportunities to regular members. Chin said the chances of converting them into VIP members were 50 percent higher after they experience benefits of the VIP tier.

Above: Sin Chew gained positive results by applying the audience funnel strategically.

In conclusion, Chin said the accelerator program allowed them to strategise their approach towards growing reader revenue by applying the funnel. Despite the growth statistics above, there is still more to be done to increase reader revenue.

Case study 2: CommonWealth Magazine, Taiwan

CommonWealth is a monthly business magazine that has been around for 40 years. In 2020, the number of digital subscribers surpassed the number of their print subscribers, following the launch of a paywall four years ago.

Through the accelerator program, Chia Lun Huang, Transformation & Learning Director of CommonWealth Magazine, said her team focused on three key areas. 

Firstly, the team put a priority on engagement.

“A lot of us, we often only focus on conversion and we don’t pay as much attention for engagement,” Huang said. “But if you don’t have engagement, you can’t have conversion.”

CommonWealth amplified engagement through their email newsletters, such as amending subscription to their daily newsletter as a default setting for members, and adding an editor’s note to personalise the experience. They also upgraded their email service provider, and changed email distribution metrics.

Lastly, signing up was simplified to a one-click process for all users. Although this channel did not result in a substantial increase in subscribers, these efforts yielded positive results in increasing engagement, which can be seen from the increased number of readers who opened their newsletters. 

Secondly, Huang’s team targeted readers at the Preference stage in the funnel through their website, to maximise conversion opportunities. Onsite marketing assets for subscription were increased, including a hello bar, drawer bar, stand-up bottom bar, and pop-up.

They also experimented with their paywall, such as amending paywall copy, paywall allowance, and reset period. Next-article UI was used to increase engagement, and the offer page was simplified to increase conversion rate and drive users to purchase a yearly offer. 

To encourage Loyalty, CommonWealth retained converted subscribers by making them feel special. They organised webinars exclusively for subscribers, and sent them gifts and thank-you emails on their anniversary. 

“We’re still experimenting,” Huang said. “We haven’t seen a huge conversion number yet, but we are seeing an increasing number of users and increasing number of page views. So we hope that’s also another indication that we can expect future growth.”

Case study 3: Tempo Media Group

Prathita Putra, Head of Digital Business, Communities and CRM at Tempo Media Group, Indonesia, also shared their efforts.

For them, the key change was to create a “subscriber-lookalike audience,” to target subscribers instead of readers, and to extend a higher advertising budget of 168 percent to Facebook ads.

With a new variety of ads and creative materials, Tempo saw impressive results with a 3,153 percent increase in transactions, 92 percent in decreased cost per transaction, and a 871 percent increase in Return on ad spend (ROAS).

With regards to Experience in the funnel, audiences are inundated by plenty of email marketing.

As the first point of contact, “the email subject should look attractive and good” so that readers would open the email. Putra emphasised the importance of finding “ways to make your email marketing subjects shorter and simpler.”

For instance, a five-word hard-sell subject title was amended to a three-word content-based subject title. This led to a 33 percent increase in open rate, a 73 percent increase in click rate, and an 82 percent increase in sales conversion.

Tempo also disseminated two newsletters per week instead of one, and increased recipients by 163 percent, resulting in a 656 percent increase in transactions and a 190 percent increase in site sessions. 

Moving on to Preference in the funnel, Tempo devised a series of email marketing, comprising of a soft-sell campaign with the first two emails and a hard-sell campaign with the third email. Compared to their previous model that consisted only of hard-sell, sales conversion increased by 57 percent.

Above: With the accelerator programme, Tempo Media Group saw their subscriber numbers grow nearly two-fold.

Putra said they have seen a 97 percent growth in digital subscriber volume and 75 percent growth in digital subscription revenue.

About the writer: Josephine Tay is a Singapore-based editor and producer with a passion for storytelling. Occasionally, she deviates from broadcast to dabble in publishing. She has been a media professional for 20 years.

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