Laura Bohannon · Uncategorized

Trick to Selling Subscriptions? Be So Good Your Audience Can’t Ignore You

I know, I know: The title of this post is ambitious.

But creating a new way for people to get news is ambitious, too!

In the age of information, the thought of paying for news subscriptions may seem far-fetched, even laughable. But with tens of thousands of people paying for premium subscription services like Spotify premium (which is coupled with a Hulu subscription now), Netflix, Apple Music, HBO, etc. it doesn’t seem like people are reluctant to pay for quality products.

In a New York Times article focused on how to improve local news coverage, the author makes a straightforward argument: cover what no one else is covering locally and engage heavily with your audience. Selling subscriptions for local news organizations instead of relying solely on advertising revenue is an interesting prospect for people looking to disrupt the news industry at a local level.

He suggests community events and heavy focus on community-specific news can help build a strong audience that’s willing to pay for the information they’re consuming. Locals hoping to learn more about their community’s politicians or parents of school-aged children are good targets for this type of business plan, but how do you decide who to target?

Figuring out your target market and audience can be intimidating, but Inc. writer Mandy Porta breaks it down in this article.

Porta says to start by looking at your current consumers, if you have any. If not, ask yourself who would care enough about your product that they’d be willing to pay for it. Be honest with yourself here. Look into who your competitors are targeting, find research about the audience(s) you’re looking to target and break it down by age, location, income (can they afford it?), interests, habits, etc.

Understand that your target market is different than your target audience, too. For example, if you’re selling a new line of clothing for men aged 18-34, it’s fairly obvious that a major target audience is – you guessed it – men aged 18-34. But another target audience could be their mothers and fathers, grandparents, significant others who might want to buy the product for your target audience. Think about how you can reach these people and how many people you will realistically be able to reach. When defining a target audience, some businesses run the risk of getting too specific. Make sure you’re thinking of these things along the way.

Coming back to news startups, in an interview with Piano CEO Trevor Kaufman, you’ll learn he shares the belief of the NY Times article author. He believes that paywalls are becoming less taboo in newsrooms and in the U.S. for customers. He addresses the belief that millennials don’t want to pay for anything and points to the fact that they’re used to purchasing things a la carté, which coincides with what I said about people subscribing to Netflix, Spotify, etc.

I think it’s sort of a no-brainer that, if the content you produce is good enough, people will see a reason to pay a fee for that content. Another example that comes to mind for me is The Athletic. It’s a subscription-based sports site covering national stories and sports in specific cities, and more writers are opting to work there. If the same principles, quality, captivating storytelling, are applied to a local news organization in the right community, I think people would be willing to pay a fee for that coverage.

3 thoughts on “Trick to Selling Subscriptions? Be So Good Your Audience Can’t Ignore You

  1. Laura, you’re right. You get what you pay for. And as we’ve been finding out, people are pretty willing to pay for what they want to get. Using the YouTube example, I’m curious what sort of pressure the advertisers are putting on Google to keep ads on videos. It’d be cool to see many more users adopt the paid subscription system and effectively lower the prices, but still supporting the content creators to make high quality stuff. Then what would all the advertisers do if their medium fades away?


  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. I think you touched on a lot of the key ideas from the articles, especially with target market and target audience. The two can become confusing and you did a great job of explaining the difference between the two. I also love the example you used about selling the new line of clothing, it really broke down what a target audience is and it allowed me to better understand who my target audience is for my start-up/business.


  3. I love how you related the concepts of producing great content to common subscriptions. It illustrates your point in a relatable way. Everyone knows about Netflix and other streaming services and we are paying for them, why? Because they producing things that are holding our interests. Netflix original series are becoming more and more popular and it is unique to their network. We don’t have a choice. We have to go to them to access some of the shows and movies that we want. So it is a testament to the concept of generating business by generating value. Well done Laura! Also, really liking the title. Ambitious but caught my attention right away. You really have a voice in your writing.


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