What do beans have to do with publishing?
Working for FT Strategies, it is immensely satisfying to know that you are making a difference to a client’s business. So I was naturally delighted to receive the following piece of feedback from the Irish Independent during Subs Academy last year from Mark Ody, Chief Marketing Officer: "In an awful long time of working, I have never been involved in anything quite as rigorous as this. It is like a 10,000 piece jigsaw made of Heinz baked beans that is now all coming together. I think what you are doing with us is really quite brilliant.”
That’s not just my favourite assessment of our impact on the programme, it’s my favourite of all the comments I have ever received during my career. So what is it about the Subs Academy programme (now about to embark on its third edition) that gives the eight publishers that participate every year such a rewarding experience? Here are five reasons:
1. Addresses the full subscriber lifecycle
This programme is rare in that it addresses every aspect of subscriber lifecycle, from traffic acquisition, through engagement, registration, conversion and monetisation, right through to retention.
The syllabus delivers FT and wider industry best practice in each of these areas, offering depth as well as breadth, with the opportunity to go into greater depth on any of these areas later on. Participants find the full-body health diagnostic extremely valuable, especially when success as a publisher operating a reader revenue model demands excellence in all of these disciplines.
2. Gives participants a strategy blueprint
Subs Academy doesn’t only help participants improve in a range of areas, it also helps them develop a sustainable way to continue to improve beyond the end of the programme. The second phase of the programme focuses on building a North Star for participants, using the same framework that helped the Financial Times reach over 1 million subscribers in 2019 and which has delivered constant growth ever since.
This method gives clarity to publishers on how they can achieve their goals, and helps them decide the steps they need to take to do so and, crucially, what they should not do along the way.
3. Involves all parts of the publication
The beauty of North Star is that it acts as a touchstone for all parts of an organisation. Nowhere is this more important than at a publisher, where interaction between the newsroom and the commercial and operational arms of the business can be disjointed.
Furthermore, the programme helps publishers create a new governance process that unites each of these departments under a common umbrella, speaking the same language.
4. Teaches the magic of experimentation
Publishers are rarely short of ideas, but regularly lack the tools to prioritise their activity and to test their theories robustly. Experimentation is taking a structured approach to testing the many options publishers have available that will help them achieve growth. It is both an art and a science, because it encompasses both innovative thinking and rigorous analysis. The third phase of Subs Academy teaches this discipline in detail, including supporting the implementation of several bespoke experiments.
5. Creates an ongoing community
Throughout the eight months, participants learn from each other’s past experience and future ambitions. Backed by an active Slack workspace and regular cohort meetings, the publishers know that there is always somewhere to turn to for extra advice in addition to that offered by FT Strategies.
However, the experience doesn’t end after eight months; alumni events help the cohort assess impact, share successes and cautionary tales, and maintain an ongoing network of peers tackling the same challenges.
That’s just five of the main reasons. Like Mark said, a jigsaw. Made of beans.
I should also mention that this is all free for publishers, except for the opportunity cost of the time and effort each commits to the programme. That’s eight months of top-drawer consulting to accelerate your subscriber revenue growth, all for free.
If these sound like reasons for you to get excited too, please apply here by Monday 14th March. Now if you will excuse me, I need to find a tin opener for eight cans of beans.
About the GNI Subscriptions Academy
FT Strategies delivers Subs Academy Europe in partnership with the International News Media Association (INMA) and Google News Initiative (GNI). Drawing on the analytical tools developed by GNI, the North Star methodology used by the Financial Times to acquire more than 1 million digital subscribers, and expertise from INMA’s Readers First Initiative, eight participating publishers will define an ambitious vision for their digital subscription business and build the organisational skills and structures that will take them to their goal.
About the author
Tim Part is a Manager at FT Strategies. He has over fifteen years’ experience in corporate strategy, marketing and regulatory roles, including as Senior Sports Consultant at MTM London, Strategy Manager for Ofcom and Brand Manager at ITV. He also has a BA in Russian and Czech from the University of Oxford, and is an avid cricket fan.