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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - October 2022

Managing churn from start to finish

Churn (aka people canceling their subscriptions) is a topic that we come back to again and again and for a very good reason. Churn is one of our most important focus areas, and if you don't manage it well, no amount of conversions can make up for what you lose.

To give you a simple example. Imagine you have newspapers or a magazine with an annual subscription, and every month, you have a churn rate of 5%. This means that within a single year, you will have to replace 60% of your subscribers to just break even. That's insane, but we sometimes hear about publishers who have this level of churn.

As a media analyst, I have written about this problem many times in the past, but in this 26-page guide, I want to talk about all the many elements of managing churn, from the very start to the very end.

Specifically, we will look at what steps you should take to minimize churn, and when you should do it:

Churn starts long before you think... the planning phase:

Let's start with the very beginning, and let's talk about this in the most straightforward way possible. When should you start to manage your churn?

The answer to this may surprise you, because when I look at most publishers, churn is something they focus on late in the process, around the time when people might actually unsubscribe. But in reality, you need to manage churn long before that. In fact, churn is the very first thing you need to focus on even before people visit you for the very first time.

There are many ways to illustrate why this is important, but the simplest was illustrated by Piano in their recent "Subscription Performance Benchmark Report", where they found that:

We saw earlier how sleepers are one group at high risk of churn. Another high-risk profile? Users who just subscribed.
It may seem counterintuitive, but up to one-third of all active churn happens in the first 24 hours. Whether they've signed up to access a single piece of content or find that the paid experience you're offering isn't what they'd hoped for, new subscribers are at a high risk of leaving.

Keep in mind here that they are talking about 'up to one-third', so this is really the upper-bound in their data, but nevertheless, first-day churn is a very big problem.

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What is Baekdal?

Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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