Subscription to TOI+ gives you access to premium articles and an ad-lite experience for one year on the Times of India website, Android, and IOS apps. Radhika Shukla, head of subscription growth, strategy, and analytics, TOI+ and Newspoint, explained the subscription revenue and data-driven customer journey at TOI+ in detail during the Wan-Ifra Digital Media India 2022.
Shukla said that the TOI+ model is a little different from other premium services offered in the market. TOI produces over 2,000 news items during the day across its digital platforms and most of them are free to access.
“What we have brought behind the paywall is about 350-400 content pieces each month which include in-depth analysis of news, driven heavily by data and charts. These are very easy to consume and easy to share. We have podcasts, Q&A series, expert opinions, newsletters, daily crossword, and TOI Dialogues. All these create intellectual property and this is what is behind paywall,” Shukla said.
User acquisition strategy
The TOI+ acquisition strategy is based on three pillars – user engagement, the platform base, and the user journey. Shukla said that a variety of strategies have been devised for the different platforms.
TOI+ has categorized engagement in three categories – type of content, the news cycle, and the time of the day. In the type of content, TOI+ tries to match the content according to the user’s reading habits. In the news cycle category it tries to tap the high traffic days and content based on the news cycle.
Shukla said that the time of the day in terms of engagement is very important. “Morning, evening and night are when we have seen a higher number of subscriptions. Hence, we have devised nudge and push notifications strategies during these hours to drive numbers,” she said.
When it comes to platforms, Android forms the largest base of TOI+ subscribers followed by iOS, web, and mobile web (mWeb). “App users are more engaged because the apps can be personalized while web and mWeb are more search engine optimized. Hence, we have different strategies for these four different platforms,” she said.
When it comes to the user journey, Shukla said, TOI+ has closely analyzed the active users on a particular day, noting how many went to article pages and then went to the payment page and how many made the payments, as well as the leakages. “We carefully analyze the leakages. We do surveys and try to figure out the reason for leakages,” she said.
TOI+ launched a free trial to its paid service for the apps and 25 to 30% of the readers converted from free trial to paid within 30 days – and readers who did not convert after that period– never converted at all. Shukla however explained that the free trial was not the biggest reason for readers to convert. “It was a way for readers to explore the content,” she said.
Last December, TOI+ introduced the microtransactions strategy where the focus is on light readers who pay for a single story to understand or get the flavor of the product and see if they want to pay for it. “We experimented with different prices and tried to figure out what is the right price so that the pay per story does not cannibalize our annual subscription model,” Shukla said. “Low prices did begin to eat into our regular subscription revenue.” She added that the pay-per-story model is still in its early days and TOI+ will need more data to build on or arrive at a strong conclusion.
What convinces readers to buy
According to Shukla, the most important thing that convinces readers to buy is the content. “Being a content product, having a strong story, strong image, headline, and bylines are very important,” she said.
The second important reason is discovery and ease of usage. Presentation and positioning of content, easy sign-up flow, and detailed plan page are important, she said. “Plan page is the most important as we do not want a lot drops to happen once the user has reached the page because of some missing information.”
Location-wise strategy and pricing is also important. She said that pricing is important because India is a price-sensitive market, and TOI+ keeps the pricing competitive. Once the reader has subscribed, TOI+ makes sure they get personalized mail. The subscriber’s content usage is analyzed, readers get push notifications, podcasts, weekend reading, and daily newsletters. “These measures are to help users build a habit,” Shukla said.