PROJECT: TRANSFORMATION OF A BUSY FREE WEBSITE COMMUNITY INTO A HIGH QUALITY PAID SUBSCRIPTION NEWS SERVICE
SECTOR: POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
CLIENT: NSI (ONLINE) LTD / Red Snapper Media
Police Oracle was a free open access news website for police officers and staff of all levels. The website had excellent traffic of over 50,000 unique visitors per month but revenue generation was not optimal and the business was making a loss.
Advertising was the main source of revenue with reasonable level of recruitment advertising but minimal display advertising. Display advertising was suffering because most of the prospective business was B2B advertising in the sector and these advertisers were not convinced by online advertising preferring magazines and events with carefully targeted controlled circulation.
I was contracted to assess the publishing business, increase revenues and put the business on course for profitability with the intention to put the business up for sale.
The agreed plan was to transform Police Oracle from a free but low quality news provider with little unique content to a professional publishing business generating high quality unique content. Police Oracle would have mandatory registration for articles and paid subscriptions whilst maintaining a viable audience to maintain and grow advertising revenues.
The goal is for the twin revenues from subscriptions and advertising growth to outstrip the investment in editorial resources.
The first year would develop high quality editorial but remain free access but require registration with the aim to grow audience but introduce the concept of controlled access.
The second year would see the introduction of a paywall with the high quality editorial proposition and increased audience well established to cushion any loss.
Phase 1 – Understanding the business
- Introduced annual reader survey covering feedback on product, editorial and advertising
- Prize draws and competitions that require registration to gain reader data
- Meetings with key advertising clients to determine requirements
- Market analysis of audience and competition
- Research paywall models and their suitability and success
Phase 2 – Grow advertising revenue
- Launch complementary police technology magazine to existing Police Oracle audience, registering free readers and collecting demographic data to enhance proposition to B2B display advertisers.
- Develop new custom advertising / audience engagement opportunities for clients including content marketing, surveys, competitions etc
- Revamp rate card increasing advertising rates but introducing discounted packages for campaigns including print and online and custom opportunities.
- Train team to sell multimedia and custom packages
- Structured marketing plan for advertising opportunities
Phase 3 – Editorial development
- Hire a team of journalists to develop unique content including in depth timely news, interviews, opinion and analysis
- Implement editorial systems to set and maintain standards and to measure the performance of content produced
- Minor revamp of web design to showcase the new volume of high quality content introducing taxonomy driven specialist subject channels
Phase 4 – Introduction of paid subscriptions
- Soft paywall and recurring subscription system developed. Registered free users get access to 10 free articles per calendar month ( out of 200+ produced ). Users can instantly upgrade using a credit card to an annual or quarterly subscription with automatic renewal until cancellation. This system minimises loss of casual low volume readers and incentivises committed readers to subscribe fulfilling our aim of maintaining a large free readership for advertisers alongside development of paid subscribers
- Organisation wide subscription functionality implemented to facilitate sales to police forces as a whole and other organisations. Implemented by authorising any registered users with a specific organisation email address extension.
- System of lifecycle marketing implemented to promote registration and then subscription
- Multi-variance testing used to iteratively refine registration and subscription process
- Development of new editorial proposition increased monthly unique users from 50,000 to 119,000 in year 1
- Introduction of paywall in year 2 reduced monthly unique users to 80,000 but sold 1800 paid individual subscription plus 10 contracts for organisation wide subscriptions.
- Recurring individual subscription model generated sharp growth
- Advertising revenues doubled over the two year period
- Business moved to profitability and was sold as planned