The Road to One Million: How FUNKE Mediengruppe Created a Strategy to Grow Digital Subscriptions

October 19, 2021 – 3 min. read

A goal of one million digital subscribers may sound arduous in an industry that is constantly working to digitize its offerings, but FUNKE Mediengruppe has taken on the challenge. As one of Germany’s largest multimedia companies, with 13 regional daily titles, in 120 markets, FUNKE has already managed to double its digital subscribers in the last year. Managing director, Christoph Rüth believes the publisher is well on its way to reaching and hopefully surpassing its one-million subscriber target by 2025. 

Rüth took to the digital stage at this year’s CUE user conference, CUE Days, to break down how the media group’s strategic business plan put them on the path of growth and success. Rüth says like every other media company, FUNKE was forced to ask itself where journalism was heading regarding the plummeting decline of print subscribers. They turned to a “user-first” approach to grow digital subscriptions.  

“We have to understand what our users want, need, and get benefits from. Then we try to organize content and marketing around that,” Rüth explained in his presentation at the conference. FUNKE believes in order to understand what’s driving reader response and subscriptions in each of its markets, the company needs to break down the boundaries between journalism, data, and tech. With an established goal of one million subscribers by 2025, the publisher divided its objectives market by market. The idea is that every newsroom would know what it needs to contribute to the overall goal. 

“Everyone wants to contribute and be a part of this one-million task,” Rüth said and that meant they had to establish a clear team structure. The company created and assigned roles in every region: editorial, data, tech, search engine optimization, audience development, and ecommerce. With a clear blueprint of responsibilities for each regional brand, FUNKE was able to create product and user-centric workflows. Establishing consistent workflows across its newsrooms and creating content that the audience can depend on is the foundation of their digital growth. 

Along with creating unique and compelling content, FUNKE had to focus on the metrics. “Data is a common good. So (all of our) journalists can see everything…” Rüth said. The process is what he likes to call “data-supported journalism.” The publisher mapped out a way to increase conversion rates by viewing the goal as a funnel, converting visitors to loyal readers, and ultimately loyal readers to subscribers. The cornerstone of that game plan is building reach across SEO relevant topics and creating theme content that results in click incentives and contribute to loyalty. They created three different subscription offerings, that are targeted to loyal readers, visitors, and current subscribers.  

“I’m convinced that there’s not just one solution… It’s a bunch of measures, within the product, within tech, within servers, within offers, within organization,” Rüth said. Another task he says could result in more subscribers is diversity in the newsroom. He says FUNKE is working to hire more diverse staff in order to reach an array of demographics. The group is also moving toward an employee user experience supported by one content management system. Rüth says the company is on a path to adopting the CUE publishing platform to accomplish that goal.