Across the industry, audiences accessing content online sky rocketed during the 2020 Covid pandemic. This wasn't to last, however, as the majority of digital publishers saw these numbers drop significantly in 2021 with those that remained being primarily volatile and anonymous, not having converted into a subscriber.

As you'll likely be aware of from your analytics, any of these users who created a free account on your site, becoming identified members, were highly more likely to pay for subscription in the future. What's more, these users consume more content, on a more frequent basis, spend more time on your site and are generally more engaged. And more engagement means more revenue...

Overall, these identified members:

  • Benefit both advertising and subscription business models
  • Have an ARPU significantly higher than anonymous visitors
  • Allow you to collect the first-party data that you're losing from falling consent rates and help you understanding user behavior

Converting anonymous users to registered members should therefore be a key focus for this year.

To achieve this, you may have already established a simple conversion funnel, making sure to not include too many form fields for your users to fill out, like The New York Times, aiming to keep users constantly logged in, like Netflix, and offering immediate re-log in after a user logs out, as Linkedin does. You may have also developed an onboarding journey for registered users, appreciating the increased engagement that this brings and making the most of their first days and weeks of being a member.

But still your users aren't always convinced to convert and create an account. Well, you aren't the only ones stuck at this point! Establishing value for your visitors in exchange for the benefits that registration brings you is perhaps the most essential part of this conversion strategy, but the hardest to get right.

What value can you provide to your users to convince them to create an account?

  1. Allow users to save content for later and resume where they left off
  2. A personalized experience, with adapted content recommendations and an account space
  3. Synchronize content consumption across devices
  4. Create functionalities to allow users to follow authors or topics, like The Globe and Mail
  5. Allow members to comment/debate on content, just like The Independent
  6. Interactive content, such as allowing users to save content in different 'folders' or access quizzes, games or videos
  7. Exclusive content - The New York Times offers newsletters for members
  8. Additional content - Harvard Business Review gives members access to 2 extra articles per month
  9. An ad-free experience (or fewer ads)
  10. Better reading experience, such as dark mode
  11. The chance to support your business, particularly for publishers who are 'known' for free, independent journalism. The Guardian definitely falls under this category, informing users that registering helps the publisher without them having to pay a penny
  12. Access to content full stop. This is the strategy employed by many TV-replay sites, like 4OD, music streaming services, including Spotify, and even social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

Bonus - Which indicators should you be tracking to measure the success of your registration strategy?

You've succeeded in establishing value for your members and getting your registration strategy live! But now what?

To understand the performance of your conversion strategy, we recommend creating a dedicated report and following these KPIs:

  • Number of account creations (volume)
  • The ratio of account creations and total unique visitors
  • Percentage of your audience who are registered
  • Behavior of your members compared to anonymous users
  • ARPU of your members compared to anonymous users (plus the global ARPU on your site which should gradually improve with more members)

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