By Chee Jing Yee

Founded in 1876 in Japan, Nikkei is a news publisher focusing on business and economic news. In 1950, the Nikkei 225 was created, referring to the current leading index of Japanese stocks.

Amidst the seismic shift towards digital content consumption, Nikkei embarked on its digital journey in 2010, pioneering digital subscriptions for news publishers in Japan.

In 2015, Nikkei’s acquisition of The Financial Times triggered a transformation in the former’s digital subscription practices through an exchange of insights, and has since constantly adapted to stay ahead of the competition. 

Nikkei’s target demographic population comprises of white-collar professionals aged 20 and above who live in urban areas.

In 2019, Nikkei started offering 1 month free trials and in-app purchases, resulting in a notable increase in new subscribers. However, it also led to an increase in churn rates.

“We needed to pay more attention to customer engagement and retention,” Mia Kataoka, Nikkei’s Product Manager (pictured above), told participants at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Asia conference in Singapore.

From acquisition to conversion 

Nikkei’s biggest source of traffic to their news website comes from search engines. To increase the number of unique visitors, Nikkei establishes search engine optimisation (SEO) guidelines to ensure standardisation throughout the newsroom.

These include using a person’s whole name as opposed to just the surname (eg. “Warren Buffett”), limiting the headline length to 28 characters and including a trending keyword in the beginning of the headline. 

In addition, Nikkei recognised a pressing need to increase the conversion rate (CVR) from free registered users to paid subscribers, as this particular CVR was the lowest when the monthly CVR of each visitor segment was calculated.

“Most users did not use up the maximum number of credits (10), so they did not have to subscribe (to unlock more articles),” Kataoka said.

To address this, Nikkei conducted a split test to confirm the optimal number of credits to be allocated to each free registered user.

The results revealed that the CVR is the highest when only 1 credit was allocated. Nikkei made subsequent adjustments to allocate 1 credit per user, resulting in a notable 20% increase in the conversion rate. 

Data-driven decision making

Using Tableau, a visual analytics platform, Nikkei creates KPI dashboards to use in day-to-day work, monitoring the number of active users on its news website, the CVR to paid subscribers and the switch rate from free-trial to paid users.

“This helps us prioritise what we are doing in terms of product management and the execution of marketing practices,” Kataoka said. 

In addition, Nikkei improved its metric to retain customers, introducing a customer engagement score.

This score assesses the frequency (how many days a subscriber visited Nikkei’s website or app in the past 20 weekdays) multiplied by the volume (how many news articles a subscriber read in the same period).

Using this data, Nikkei segments subscribers into four categories: Light, Middle, Loyal and Super Loyal, actively tracking the number of subscribers of each category.

“With these metrics, it is clear which group we need to pay more attention to, so we can take major steps to reduce the churn rate,” Kataoka said.

About the author: Chee Jing Yee is a final year student in Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, specialising in public communication campaigns.

More than 270 people from 25 countries and representing 90 organisations attended this year’s Digital Media Asia at the Orchard Hotel in Singapore in October.

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