Crawford Media First person

How to get audiences to pay when they don’t have to

Today, I present you with Margy Vary, former marketing director at The Guardian Australia, and the possessor of a keen analytical mind. Vary has applied that mind to the thorny and important question of how to coax money out of news audiences.

In the podcast, Vary explains how she and her colleagues at The Guardian began with the belief that they had to offer objects and tangible benefits in order to get people to contribute, but they quickly found their assumptions were incorrect.

“We started with this big grand plan of a sort of multi-tiered membership model with different types of discounts for events and, and other soft benefits. And we very nearly even bought a big events venue in London. But the problem was the cost of sale and the confusion.”

In the end, it was more effective to target the core believers in The Guardian editorial mission who were happy to contribute without extra benefits. Their payoff was the good feeling of supporting a brand they believed in. After looking after this core, a publisher can expand the model with benefits.

“Bringing it back to my hard-headed data mind: It’s about optimizing across the demand curve, right? So you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got messaging and product that enables everybody, from your real individual high-level donors, right through to your small $5, $1 a month people, that you can satisfy them all and understand their needs.”

At one point in the interview, Vary mentions The Membership Puzzle Project. This project, initially started at New York University with Jay Rosen, looked at how memberships for news sites different from subscriptions and donations. It closed operations a few months ago.