Because we give our existing members the chance to share articles freely with anyone they wish, potential members can get acquainted with the Correspondent before joining. We also share one or two pieces every day with 122,000+ users who have liked us on Facebook. When they opt to read an article, we ask them (using a popup and a call-to-action at the end of the story) if they would like to receive a sample story each week by email.
Once they’ve signed up, readers will receive the email newsletter from Editor in Chief Rob Wijnberg with a selected article from the past week. He emphasizes in the newsletter that the Correspondent owes its very existence to paying members. Last weekend alone, the conversion rate of newsletter recipients who become paying members was 1.8%.
With the sample story newsletter, we try to benefit from the massive reach of Facebook while at the same time establishing our own bond with these new readers. We organized a “Likers-turned-Members” Day, for instance, a special Facebook event during which we explained to Likers why we cannot continue to do what we do without their support. One of the things we shared with them was a pie chart, showing how we invest the fees paid by members.
(1) Facebook has one strength and two weaknesses for publishers. The strength: Facebook’s daily audience is massive. The weaknesses: (i) While Facebook users have sky-high engagement with Facebook itself, they have low engagement with individual publishers because addictive platforms like Facebook have high content cadence. (ii) Publishers who rely on traffic from Facebook face acute business risk as Facebook controls that traffic.
(2) The right strategy for publishers is therefore to convert Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn) users to a higher engagement channel in the publisher’s control. This is what De Correspondent achieves by signing up Facebook users to its free weekly email.
(3) Once De Correspondent has Facebook users signed up to its free emails, it can then promote its paid product. The “engagement ladder” is thus: Facebook Passer-By >> Free Email Subscriber >> Paid Subscriber.
(4) Cf. Why the Facebook threat to most media businesses will only get worse.