How podcasts can help your membership or subscription strategy

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Small country, small reach, but big returns

My newsroom is based in Slovakia (Central Europe, 5 mil. people) and three years ago podcasts have been a term almost nobody understood or came across.

Podcasting & subscriptions (memberships)

At first, our goal in connection with our subscription business was to look around and see what others do and by default try to convert podcast listeners to subscribers.

When you don’t have data, ask for it & you shall receive.

What the data told us about our listeners

One of the problems with podcasting is, that there is not as much data as you are used to getting for example from social networks.

He (rather than she) is under 35 years of age, has a university degree, listens to podcasts daily, subscribes & listens to 3 to 5, and earns higher than the average salary.

Here are some more detailed data about our listeners:

  • young people, especially women under the age of 35
  • 92% listen several times a week (60% daily)
  • primary listening device: 87% smartphone (smart speakers 5%)
  • primary listening place: home (even before covid-19)
  • 61% say they don’t mind ads in podcasts

How subscribers feel about our podcasts

Each year we also learned more and more about our subscribers who were also podcast listeners. As I mentioned above, our initial strategy was to convert listeners to subscribers (SME.sk has a subscription business and wants to grow its reader revenue).

  • more than 50% of subscribers (of SME.sk) listen to podcasts regularly
  • more than 50% say they listen to our daily news podcast
  • 20% say they listen to any of our podcasts
  • 16% would pay a higher subscription (more content, no ads)

Our mistake was thinking podcasts are primarily a way to get new subscribers. Podcasts are about retention.

The New York Times agrees

In 2018, the WAN-IFRA — World Association of News Publishers published a report called Engaged Readers Don’t Churn, our version is Engaged listeners don’t churn.

A lot of organizations, not just the podcasts and newsletters, would think about this. I have someone as a newsletter subscriber. How can I get them to do one more thing to build the relationship with me? They’re newsletter subscribers, but they also listen to our podcast. They’re newsletter subscribers, but they also came to an event or are coming regularly to our events.

How can we get them to do one more thing? Bring them closer to us, so that when we ask them for the next step to support us or donate, they will really care about us and have a good relationship with us on a few different platforms.

Those are the readers who are most likely to convert. So that’s where that comes in. It’s just an additional way to deepen engagement.

And he is not the only one. Other publishers see something similar.

The idea [that certain] stories made people into subscribers misunderstands the way a subscription works. Subscriptions seldom happen because of one story. It’s about it’s about a relationship.

And actually, I tell you now, we discovered the diversity of consumption, by which I mean how many different kinds of content people consume. The New York Times is really important. It’s not going to be one story.

It’s actually going to be the person who discovers they love our political coverage. And cooking or and books or and opera coverage or whatever it might be, it’s much more about how you over time demonstrate there are lots of different good things in an organization.

So, that's why I think podcasts are a great way for keeping subscribers subscribed and members staying supporters.

Here are slides from my presentation at #NISAUDIO

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Dávid Tvrdoň

Dávid Tvrdoň

Journalist / newsletter writer / podcast producer • 📩 weekly tech & media newsletter: https://fwiw.substack.com/welcome • 🌐 info: https://davidtvrdon.com