Not that predictable at all it would seem. A heavy reliance is based on the explosion of current affairs – and they can not be tamed.

The New Yorker put its site behind a metered paywall in November 2014. The expectation was that traffic would go down, and not much thought was given to subscription results. As it would happen, traffic went up by 30 percent within a few months and subscriptions grew 85 percent year on year.

Circulation is currently at 1.1 million (combination of print/digital, print-only and digital-only) since the U.S election. This is the highest it has ever been. The conclusion?

For The New Yorker, it’s evidence that there’s a far bigger paying audience out there for its particular brand of journalism, especially among young readers.” – Digiday

The New Yorker is not the only publication that is experiencing increased interest from people. Trump’s election found The New York Times and Washington Post selling premium price subscriptions at an unexpected rate.

Newseconomics summarises some of these astounding digital subscription and membership growths in ‘Trump Bump Grows Into Subscription Surge – and Not Just for the New York Times’:

  • The Atlantic broke a record for subscription numbers in November. Then December doubled this record. Combined, these two months accounted for one-third of all subscriptions placed online in 2016. January continued the trends of increased numbers of new paying readers.
  • The New York Times is estimated to increase their new net subscribers by 500,000 by the end of the month. This increase for newspaper subscriptions is unheard of in U.S history.
  • Washington Post, the competitive partner of The New York Times also saw a surge of subscription start ups in January. The Post has seen its digital subscriptions revenue doubled and a 75% increase in new subscribers. The newspaper now sees up to 300,000 digital-only subscribers.
  • Financial Times benefited from both the ‘Trump Bump’ as well as Brexit. With a 33% increase in new subscriptions in the two weeks following the U.S election, and a 75% increase in the month around the Brexit vote.

These are just a few iconic publishing names whose subscriptions have benefited from the unpredictable, and highly debated current affairs events. It goes to show that a good strategy set in place, is still susceptible to the ever-changing tide of the world and how the media responds. The increase in subscriptions is due to “turning readers into paying subscribers into a priority.

So, what is the strategy that prepares subscription plans for media explosions?

Monica Ray, evp of consumer marketing for Condé Nast, mentions using social media to expose the brand to a wider audience and meet them on a platform that is relatable will encourage them to subscribe.

Part of that is finding top-performing stories on Facebook and recirculating them with paid posts that it targets to people based on their interests, as it did with this one on why we think the way we do and this one on the return of civil disobedience.” – Monica Ray

Another growth avenue worthy of focus is newsletters which use popular sections, individual writers, cartoons and humor to attract potential paying subscribers. It also allows The New Yorker to track the behavior of their audience to find out where their interests lie.

Technology and the global reach is another potentially lucrative direction to take. By studying the IPS address of readers, The New Yorker has been able to target their international audience and offer them customised offers. The New Yorker has also had to consider social media and the importance of the mobile generation. This indicates that the generation of readers is getting younger, hence the refined target to include college students and people that fit into the segment of 18 – 34 (which is the publications fastest growing segment).

Essentially, we can study human behavior and initiate a strategy that optimises on the behavior and interests of the studied audience, but media explosions will happen and our socks may very well be blown off.

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