When ad revenue growth was strong, publishers could justify pumping up circulation numbers willy-nilly. With those days over, publishers like The Economist are turning their attention to retention.
The Economist has set a goal of doubling its circulation profits by 2020. To do that, it needs to grow digital subscriptions, which number about 350,000 out of a total circulation of 1.5 million, and keep subscribers from canceling because replacing canceled subscribers is expensive. At the head of this effort is Anna Rawling, evp of customer experience and product strategy for The Economist.
“The journey started about three years ago,” Rawling said. “We became more focused on circulation and driving subscriptions with an overriding focus on profitability rather than volume. Prior to that, we had profitability targets, but it was more of a volume play to support advertising.”
Rawling has 32 people who report to her, and half of them focus on retention. Once people have subscribed to The Economist for a year, they tend to retain well. But a lot has to happen in between.