More subscriptions and boosting reader revenue: What’s The Guardian’s secret?

Opinary co-founder Pia Frey recently spoke on her podcast with Lee Glendinning, Executive Editor at The Guardian, about driving subscriptions and boosting reader revenue. Glendinning’s focus is getting more people to pay for Guardian journalism, through subscriptions and donations of all sizes.

The Guardian has had great success in this area. Last year, the number of financial supporters topped 1 million people worldwide.

Finding new ways to fund top-quality journalism is why we started Opinary, to help publishers engage, understand and convert their readers into loyal, paying subscribers. So we’re happy to share some of Glendinning’s key insights from the conversation.

What types of news stories drive donations? According to Glendinning, there has been a significant increase around dramatic world events like the election of Donald Trump, and Britain’s EU referendum.

“People were giving around that time and that drove significant levels of support. And obviously subscriber models did the same thing and I think there’s been a lot of questions around whether that would continue. What I think we are seeing is a much more nuanced picture outside of those events and outside of only bad news.

“I think we see a lot of support for our environmental coverage, the stories about climate change, that’s not really a positive example, but stories about climate change drive a great deal of support. We see a real pattern there and I think that sort of speaks to the most meaningful journalism that you can do as well… People want to contribute money to support that kind of journalism.”

But how does a news organisation entice readers to open their wallets? It’s not necessarily about fancy gifts, free book tokens or coffee machines.

“We looked carefully at what our readers wanted in that relationship and really examined how we could deepen the way we were talking to them and the way we were communicating with them every week. And I think one of the first key learnings we had was that our readers weren’t really interested in tangible benefits and so what mattered most to them was hearing about the journalism.”

And what about the international market? It seems some countries are more generous than others.

“One of the really interesting things through this model is that because we’re saying to our readers you contribute the way you would like to, in America for example, we see people choose to give a lot more one-off contributions, which fits culturally with how people want to give. In the UK, there are more recurring contributions. There’s a deep level of membership. People have grown up with the paper, reading the paper and the brand. In Australia, we’ve got a really engaged audience who are very loyal.

“And then in Europe, there are lots of different variations, from really generous giving in Scandinavia, for example, because culturally that’s something that people are used to paying for news and believe in paying for news to just different ways of giving. And I think something that’s felt really unique about this is the different support base around the world and how that’s grown in the last three years.

“So when we started, obviously, it was predominantly a UK support base, but now we have really significant support in the States and in Europe and around the world. So that to me has been really striking.”

If you want a more loyal and engaged audience, we’re here to help. Visit Opinary’s publisher resource centre to learn more and see how we’re helping our publisher partners to deepen their audience relationships and make more money.

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Pia FreyCo-founder & Head of PublishersFollow on Twitter