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Big Five Success Factors, with Zeit Digital CEO Christian Röpke

As the first session of the Virtual Tour Digital Revenues drew to a close the results came in from an in-event poll that asked attendees what was their core revenue stream. The results showed that for no fewer than 68 per cent of respondents the answer was ‘subscriptions’. Which made it all the more compelling that the first webinar was from the offices of Die Zeit which has never seen higher subscription figures than now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is their success formula?

1. Strong brand

“The first is having a strong brand. Die Zeit is a strong brand in Germany and online has a strong portal and presence. It hasn’t always been so, we were quite late in developing ZEIT ONLLINE and only started investing significantly in the website about twelve years ago. Having a big reach and strong brand is very important for all parts of the business.”

2. Team

Team – having a weekly newspaper and website we believe it’s important to have a dedicated digital team that interacts with print but works at a different speed. We have a dedicated team doing digital products. That’s been important.” Part of the culture is the ‘university’ where colleagues share their knowledge and learnings with other colleagues.

3. 360° subscription offering

The 360 degree subscription offering – buy once and get all paid for formats and products. We believe that is important.”

4. One price – one marketing message

“We can price our digital subscription at the same price as our print subscription. The only thing we do is a trial subscription which is free for four weeks and after that you pay €5,40 per edition as a subscriber and that’s the same for print or digital. What’s important is that we can always direct marketing towards the brand because we are not directing marketing to offerings so we have a very concentrated marketing funnel – it’s always about the brand and the content.”

5. Paywall

The paywall. “Introduced three and a half years ago as we had learned from friends and competitors in the market and in the end we chose a hybrid model.” This means that there is free content on the website interspersed with content you can access if you register. Beyond three of these registered articles there is the paid for tier only available to subscribers. And then there is content on ZEIT ONLINE that you need to have a subscription for in order to access. This has gained much importance compared to the registration wall, especially on our homepage, where by now we have more or less a straight forward freemium model. The registration wall is still very prevalent in the archive.  To ensure that it works new roles have been created; “In the last one and a half years the editorial team has added a special team with editorial subscription manager monitoring how stories perform. That’s been a really important factor for our development.”