MPP Global helps The Irish Times to improve subscription service

News publisher uses Microsoft’s machine learning-based platform to decrease reader churn

By Guest on 19 October 2017
MPP Global helps The Irish Times to improve subscription service

The Irish Times, one of Ireland’s most widely read newspapers, has a daily reach of 534,000 readers across its printed and online content. With 51 million monthly page views and 8.5 million monthly users, the news publisher saw an opportunity to monetise its digital audience to further drive revenues.

To effectively connect with loyal and highly engaged readers, The Irish Times required a platform that could identify and engage its readers, and successfully manage them throughout the subscription lifecycle. This led the news publisher to launch its digital subscription service with the help of MPP Global, which delivers eSuite, subscription and billing platform that provides publishers with the freedom to monetise digital content and print publications in real time.

The standard digital subscription starts at €12 per month with a complete print and digital subscription option at €50 per month, including full digital access and six-day home delivery of the print paper. With The Irish Times ePaper, subscribers can access an exact replica of the print newspaper on mobile devices.

To ensure that it could drive revenues and retain customers, The Irish Times wanted access to MPP Global’s eSuite Retention and Recovery module – which is built on Microsoft’s machine learning algorithms – to effectively identify, manage and reduce subscriber churn.

Powered by eSuite, The Irish Times’s metered paywall model enables non-subscribers access to a number of free articles per month, while subscribers receive access to print, mobile and digital content. eSuite provides key core functionality in The Irish Times systems architecture, a centralised platform that manages all customer data, thereby helping the news publisher understand how to best serve individuals and groups of readers in the future.

eSuite also provides The Irish Times with flexible and tailored pricing and packaging, enabling it to easily change products and services via the product and subscription management functionality. Now that is has greater insight into the habits of its readers, the news publisher can adapt its prices and services to drive audience engagement even higher. The organisation also wanted to reduce the number of cancellations that were caused by failing card payments from subscribers. Leveraging the Retention & Recovery module in eSuite, The Irish Times has access to a range of functionality to ensure revenues do not decrease due to involuntary churn.

Implementing a number of configurable multi-layered, time-based retry rules, the news publisher can ensure it is taking payment at the optimum time to ensure success. By identifying the ideal time to take payment, The Irish Times has implemented retry schemes so that if taking payment is not successful, it will be tried at various times over a 12-day period.

The Irish Times has also leveraged the card updater functionality available in the Retention & Recovery module. This technology identifies the cards in a subscriber’s eWallet that are due to expire and calls out to the initiating bank prior to the expiration date to request the updated card details. This reduces the number of card payments failing at the time of the monthly renewal, ensuring the news publisher can maintain as much recurring revenue as possible. Thanks to this feature, 80% of all subscriptions that would have failed due to expired card details now successfully renew after those details have been updated.

Customers benefit from a wide range of options and a consistent user experience, with the newspaper’s brand, look and feel unified and integrated into the payment pages to reflect The Irish Times’ website. eSuite enables The Irish Times to manage many aspects of the customer journey, from content metering, subscription and entitlement management, to product management and customer service. This functionality provides The Irish Times with business efficiency gains in a number of areas, while accelerating the launch of new products, either internally or through carefully selected third parties.

“With the increasing acceptance that digital content needs to be paid for, we believe it is the right time to ask readers for what we think is a modest subscription cost,” said Liam Kavanagh, managing director of The Irish Times. “Working closely with MPP Global we can ensure we understand our audience better and develop our services to keep them returning to The Irish Times.”

The Irish Times needed a centralised system to store all customer details across its printed and digital services, but also wanted to be able to report and manage its success across a range of business areas. With the focus of the new customer-centric strategy being to improve consumer engagement, The Irish Times also required the functionality to attract new audiences and types of readers to its digital services. One of the key ways to do this is by leveraging voucher code technology to create offers and promotions that entice consumers to become subscribers. The news publisher understood the necessity of focusing on involuntary churn, as well as voluntary, which is why it implemented retention and recovery technology alongside voucher code functionality.

In light of consumers turning more to digital sources to access news, it became apparent that The Irish Times needed to monetise digital audiences alongside its print subscribers to continue driving revenues. The launch of its digital subscription and implementing eSuite into the business has enabled The Irish Times to achieve this and successfully manage the different services across a single, integrated platform.

Since going live in 2015, The Irish Times digital subscription has exceeded the news publisher’s target, reaching more than 60,000 digital and home delivery subscribers. This was attributed to launching digital subscription packages and combined digital and print bundles (where home delivery is available), with the news publisher doubling the number of its subscribers in the first year.

The circulation of the ePaper now exceeds 15,000 per day, and there have been more than 120,000 news app downloads. This shows that, in keeping with evolving digital consumption habits, The Irish Times is maintaining its position as a highly trusted source for news, opinion and analysis which continues to attract readers.

In addition, the implementation of the retention and recovery technology has enabled the news publisher to increase its account win-backs and decrease subscription cancellations. Since the retry functionality was implemented, the involuntary churn rate has fallen from its highest point of 3.5% to a low of 1.1%.

“We are delighted with the success of the digital strategy and are excited to see how our relationship with MPP Global will support us as we continue to innovate along with the changing demands of audiences and their reading habits,” said Derek Wilson, technology director at The Irish Times.

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