The Washington Post’s Winning Subscription Strategy

Nearly 150 years after it first launched as a news publication, The Washington Post is one of the top news brands in the world, attracting nearly 3 million total subscribers globally.

When it comes to attracting new subscribers, The Post is leaning into a more personalized experience to surprise and delight readers.

Nicole Orders
Nicole Orders, product lead for subscription acquisitions at The Post

“Overall, from a product standpoint, we are hyper-focused on the reader experience,” said Nicole Orders, product lead for subscription acquisitions at The Post. She joined the newspaper in April 2020, a month after the pandemic hit and increased the public’s appetite for news.

With more readers coming to The Post in that moment, the work was in the details, particularly when it came to converting those readers into subscribers. The team dove into research and data to figure out what their readers were expecting from their experience with the news and from purchasing online in general.

One-click at the Paywall

Their research and data analysis paid off as The Post implemented some effective changes to the subscription process, making it easier to transact, particularly at the touchpoint where readers came up against a paywall. Having the option to seamlessly subscribe via PayPal the moment a reader hits trending story sitting behind a paywall has proved to be a successful tactic.

Washington Post subscription signup on mobile

“The depth and breadth of our content is what attracts readers. Visual storytelling and interactive articles differentiate our reading experience,” Nicole said. “When the moment comes that a reader is ready to subscribe, we want their purchase experience to meet that same high standard — it should be easy, fast, and simple. Hence every new experience we test is designed to move us closer to a one click purchase.”

One of the first things they did to make that happen was integrate PayPal, offering their readers more device and browser-relevant payment options. They also made express payment options prominent on the site to reduce friction when it came to making the purchase. As a result, PayPal has become The Post’s top express payment method.

“It’s really a differentiated experience for our readers within the publishing space to be able to purchase from the paywall and get back to the content that they want,” she said.

New generation of readers

Understanding readers were hungry for news from a credible source, and that a new generation of subscribers were experiencing news on different platforms, the company sought to make further changes.

They implemented PayPal’s Braintree, giving them the solution they needed to accept local currencies, including the Canadian dollar, the British pound, the euro, the Australian dollar and the Indian rupee.

“It’s really a differentiated experience for our readers to be able to purchase from the paywall and get back to the content they want.”

“One of the key decision points in choosing Braintree was that it was going to enable us to expand to those international currencies that we weren't able to support previously. That directly supported our global expansion strategy,” said Nicole. “It's been a great partnership with Braintree and we've been able to go to market pretty quickly given the focused effort from both sides.”

Always looking to the future, The Washington Post also started implementing new ways to reach a new generation of readers. Aside from amassing a significant following on TikTok, they also integrated Venmo as part of their payment options.

“Our strategy was an organization-wide effort to pursue readers in the next generation who are going to be that next generation audience for The Washington Post. That's taken many different forms,” Nicole said.  “We launched Venmo to offer a peer-to-peer payment method that was more native with younger generations. We've actually been seeing that grow, it's still small as a percentage of our overall payments, but it’s growing and we've seen our hypothesis confirmed that it is doing quite well with that younger audience that we were targeting.”

The news industry continues its rapid transformation and through it all, The Post has remained steadfast in its approach to put its readers first, not only with engaging content but with a subscription process that is optimized for their evolving readership.

“We have a history and a strong foundation,” Nicole said. “Now it’s about the future.”

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