Not long ago I interviewed Beverley McIntyre, director of member services and support at News UK.

The extent to which a paywall has changed life at The Sun is quite remarkable. Last weekend, fingering Twitter, I saw that The Times and Sunday Times is offering a free iPad Mini to anyone taking out a premium subscription.

This intrigued me and I looked further at The Times member page, a more advanced product than The Sun when it comes to paywalls at News UK, having been in place for a while longer.

I saw a lot of features that I take to be trends in publishing strategy, customer support and web design.

Here they are...

Multichannel support

Live chat is becoming increasingly important in a variety of sectors. Telecoms is an area where it will become increasingly prevalent, with a mix of poor websites and complicated billing leading many to call contact centres that are often overwhelmed.

Live chat allows for a number of simultaneous queries for each agent and it can ensure quicker reply and resolution for the customer. For The Times, live chat is a great boon to customer support but also conversion (see below). And customers love it.

Of course, there are still customers more comfortable calling a contact centre, which The Times offers. There are also extensive FAQs provided in an effort to reduce the cost to serve as far as possible (and to delight the customer).

Live chat for support

live chat The Times

..and conversion.

livechat the times

Added value to digital subscriptions

The move from ownership to digital subscription in media has meant paywall newspapers such as The Times have needed to add value to memberships.

They need to do this to elevate a paid digital offering (or digital and print) above the millions of free media offerings online. If The Guardian website and majority of its app content is free, why should I pay to access The Times?

Well, leaving political allegiance aside, the reason one might be tempted is because of the associated 'stuff and opportunities'. Not all of it is free, some of it is merely exclusive, but that's equally as enticing.

This 'stuff and opportunities' is potentially a new revenue stream for The Times. It means new partners or new angles for existing partners.

The added value of an iPad Mini!

ipad mini the Times

The Times+ is the name given to the members club offering 'private events and mingling with other Times+ members'!

times plus

Affiliate deals work well with membership due to a well qualified audience. This provides more exclusive offers for subscribers.

deals with the times

Choice and unbundling

No fewer than eight membership packages are offered, depending on combination of print and digital, The Times and Sunday Times, and whether you take out a trial (and I think there are more packages out there I didn't find).

This choice, giving the customer a price they will likely pay more than and a price they might not stretch to just yet is of course good psychology.

Take a look at the options by clicking through below and note how the trial option doesn't come with a free iPad Mini. That iPad is a pretty big carrot with which to lure customers in for 18 months.

As well as choice, unbundling is increasingly important for newspapers. The Times isn't doing this yet but if you look at the New York Times, which is taking the lead in this area, you can see products such as the NYT Now app, designed to be affordable for snacking readers that aren't yet ready to subscribe in full.

Choice, click through to see the membership packages.

the times 

New York Times unbundling of products.

new york times subscriptions

Design

On a web design note, The Times membership pages are all scrollable, look nice and big on tablet and include full page video in the sports section.

This design element is something The Sun is playing catch up on. The more persuasive, interactive and long the membership page is, the greater the possiblity of signing customers up.

Click through to see full page video.

the times sports

Long membership product pages can continue to persuade the customer as they scroll.

the times membership 

the times membership

Ben Davis

Published 28 October, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

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Didi

This is a great look at the Times' new acquisition strategy and how they approach the digitalized age of nowadays' media. Very interesting read indeed!

http://www.intouchcrm.com/

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Re: "The added value of an iPad Mini!"

Just a word of caution, because this is the base 16GB model, and here's what John Gruber (possibly the biggest Apple fan in the world) says about that configuration:

"Apple should not be selling 16 GB iPads. The starting tier for typical consumers should be 32 GB. There’s just not enough usable space on a 16 GB iOS device to do the things Apple has worked so hard to make easy to do."
http://daringfireball.net/2014/10/ipad_air_2

@Times: please allow subscribers the option to have 32GB, possibly for a small extra charge. Memory is not upgradeable on iPads, so they can't increase it later if they realize 16GB is not enough. Apart from anything else, this would reduce your support costs whenever they upgrade to future versions of iOS.

over 3 years ago

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