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Social Media-Mobile Discoverers subscribe after high-quality engagement on digital platforms

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers are subscribers who engage with the newspaper and its journalists on social media and read the paper on mobile devices.

They get news on a cell phone often and use social media often, and they also interact with the newspaper through news alerts, following it or its journalists on social media, or by sharing content.

They become persuaded to subscribe as they appreciate the local news coverage and are impressed by particular news articles, and they feel strongly about wanting to support the local journalism.

The final trigger for getting them to subscribe, as it is for others, is often a discount or promotion. This group is also somewhat paywall-motivated—25 percent were triggered by hitting a meter limit; and 35 percent say a key benefit of subscribing is the unlimited digital stories.

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers are more digital-minded than other subscribers, but still are heavy users of print as well. This group is much younger than others, and tends to be slightly more female and more likely to identify as a Democrat. They are particularly likely to value talking about news with family and friends, using it to help take care of themselves or their family, and helping them be a better-informed citizen.

When asked why they subscribed, many in this group give reasons such as “I would often click links that I discovered on my Facebook feed” or “enjoying the easy online access.”

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers include 19 percent of total respondents.

“I was reading articles online from following them on social media and enjoying them,” says one Social Media-Mobile Discover. “I also started listening to their podcast.”

Publisher strategies for Social Media-Mobile Discovers

The Social Media-Mobile Discoverers group is an important one and may be underappreciated by some publishers.

The data makes very clear that mobile and social are both important paths by which potential new subscribers discover publications—especially younger readers.

One implication of this is that publishers need to have a clear and aggressive strategy of putting their best content on social media platforms.

The Social Media-Mobile Discoverers are likely to follow individual reporters on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That means publishers should be tracking that data as well and delivering messages encouraging readers to like, follow, share, and eventually subscribe. 

There are a few instances of publishers effectively using Facebook to engage their readers. In one example, editorial staff respond to individual comments on Facebook, and the customer care teams also respond to questions and complaints that are broadcast on social media. In another example, publishers are creating Facebook groups about specific topics or that are exclusive for subscribers.

One question for publishers is whether to relax their paywall or meter for the Social Media-Mobile Discoverers. It can be particularly frustrating if someone shares an article, but their friends cannot then read it. Chances are, if it is a hard paywall, those friends won’t try to access that publication a second time. Those potential readers are now a lost opportunity.

So when a user arrives from social media, publishers may want to be more lenient with their meter. Interestingly, once the meter count is exceeded, these social media-referred readers convert to paid subscribers at rates similar to others.

This group also indicates that publishers need to be sure their content presents well on mobile devices.

Up close: Who are the Social Media-Mobile Discovers?

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers tend to be slightly more female than other subscribers (53 percent vs. 46 percent), and they are much younger (51 percent are under the age of 60 vs. 28 percent of other subscribers). They are also more likely than other subscribers to be Democrats (58 percent vs. 48 percent).

They are more likely to prefer digital content than other subscribers (36 percent vs. 23 percent), though the majority of Social Media-Mobile Discoverers still prefer print (60 percent).

Among Social Media-Mobile Discoverers who used their paper before they started to pay for it, half used it for more than a year. They most frequently visited its website, followed the organization on social media, and encountered it on a search engine, all of which they did more often than other subscribers. Compared to other subscribers, they are also particularly likely to have shared its content with others and follow its journalists on social.

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers Other subscribers
I encountered it on Google and other search engines 57% 37%
I followed the organization’s account on social media 52% 8%
I saw friends or family share its content or recommend it 45% 25%
I regularly shared its content with others 40% 25%
I followed its journalists or columnists on social media 38% 7%
I used its app 33% 25%

Data Source: Question: Prior to becoming a paying subscriber to [SOURCE], in which of the following ways did you interact with [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

As for background factors that were important to their decision to subscribe, many Social Media-Mobile Discoverers say it was important that they were looking for local news (68 percent), that they saw a number of interesting articles (53 percent), and that they wanted to support local journalism (43 percent). They are more likely than other subscribers to cite all three of these factors as important when considering subscribing.

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers Other subscribers
I wanted access to news about my local community 68% 59%
I noticed a number of especially useful or interesting articles 53% 35%
I wanted to support local journalism 43% 28%
I was concerned about the accuracy of the reporting available from free news sources 36% 30%
I was looking for a news source that covers a particular topic/issue 35% 27%

Data Source: Question: There are a lot of reasons why a person may decide to subscribe to a news source. Here is a list of factors that might have crossed your mind as you considered subscribing to [SOURCE]. How important was each of these factors as you considered subscribing to [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

When it comes to the specific trigger to subscribe, Social Media-Mobile Discoverers most often mention a discount or promotion (47 percent), but they also cite that they kept hitting an article limit (25 percent) and that they wanted coupons (20 percent). They are more likely than other subscribers to mention hitting an article limit.

Once they subscribe, the Social Media-Mobile Discoverers are almost twice as likely as others to share content with friends. They are also far more likely to seek out content in search, follow a news organization in social media, and go to events. In short, these subscribers can become marketers for a publication, who then bring additional subscribers as well.

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers Other subscribers
Regularly share its content with others 71% 37%
Encounter it in Google and other search engines 38% 16%
Follow the organization’s account on social media 38% 4%
Follow its journalists or columnists on social media 29% 5%
Go to events it organizes 19% 12%

Data Source: Question: Now that you subscribe to [SOURCE], in which of the following ways do you interact with [SOURCE]? Do you …?

Media Insight Project

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers are also more likely to say their favorite benefits of subscribing are that they feel good about supporting the organization, get access to events, and get access to unlimited digital stories.

Social Media-Mobile Discoverers Other subscribers
I feel good about supporting the news organization 53% 38%
I like getting an unlimited number of digital stories 35% 19%
It gives me access to events sponsored by the news organization 14% 9%

Data Source: Question: Now that you subscribe to [SOURCE], which of the following do you consider the biggest benefit of your subscription? Please select up to three (3).

Media Insight Project

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