A subscriptions lab for European publishers

As more news outlets turn to online subscriptions to make money from their digital content, we’re working with publishers to strengthen their capabilities and grow reader revenue. That’s why we’re kicking off the second edition of the Google News Initiative Subscriptions Lab program in Europe, developed in partnership with FT Strategies and the International News Media Association (INMA). 

The Lab is an eight-month program designed to strengthen and accelerate growth of a publisher’s subscription business and help them develop new monetization strategies. It will focus on every step of the process, from how readers discover news content to how publishers convert those readers into subscribers and retain them over the long term.  

The Subscriptions Lab is a part of the Google News Initiative’s Digital Growth Programme, which was created to provide European news publishers with training and other resources to grow their digital business.

Building on the success of last year’s edition, the 2021 program attracted more than 50 applicants from 22 European countries. The eight publishers who have been selected, following a rigorous selection process, are:

  • The Courier (DC Thomson Media), United Kingdom
  • Denik (Vltava Labe Media), Czech Republic 
  • Irish Independent (Independent News & Media), Ireland 
  • Le Journal du Dimanche (Lagardère Media News), France 
  • OÖNachrichten (Wimmer Medien), Austria 
  • El País (Prisa), Spain 
  • Público (Público Comunicação Social), Portugal 
  • Ruhr Nachrichten (Lensing Media), Germany

The selection criteria includes a publisher having senior management support and commitment, digital subscriptions as a top strategic priority and a willingness to share knowledge and lessons with the rest of the group and the wider industry. The selection panel also ensured that the final group of eight publishers represented a broad cross-section of the industry: a mix of local, regional and national publishers of varying sizes, plus participants at different stages of their subscriptions journey.

The program draws on the expertise of each of the partners: the analytical tools developed by the Google News Initiative, FT Strategies’ experience of developing a successful subscriptions business — something they term the “North Star” methodology — and expertise from INMA’s Readers First Initiative

Eight publishers took part in last year’s inaugural edition of the European Subscriptions Lab: La Croix (France), Dennik N (Slovakia), Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland), The Independent (UK), Kurier (Austria), El Mundo (Spain), RP Online (Germany) and VLT (Sweden). The publishers, who took a survey rating their satisfaction, rated it a 4.9 out of 5 upon completing the Lab. Their experience and lessons were shared during last year’s INMA virtual town hall, moderated by Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota. 

For each participating publisher, the 2020 Lab executed an in-depth diagnostic analysis of their performance and built a strategy around a clear goal, like reaching a certain number of subscribers. We conducted more than 20 experiments during last year’s Labs, with goals like growing readership, retaining readers, testing article quality and testing various subscription and payment models. When conducting these experiments, one participating publisher saw daily registrations increase by ten times by creating a new registration wall, while another had a more than 10 percent increase in conversions on the paywall by changing the position of page roadblocks.  

If you’re interested in seeing more experiment results from last year’s cohort as well as detailed learnings, you can watch the recording of INMA’s virtual Town Hall, or read the new report by FT Strategies, called “Towards your North Star.”