Fairfax Seizes on Opportunity to Push Boundaries of Subscriptions and Lead the Australian Media Market in a New Digital Age
London, 20th March 2013 Zuora, the subscription commerce, billing and finance leader, today announced that Fairfax Media Limited has deployed its cloud-based subscription commerce platform to manage the intricate mix of digital and print subscription options that will be required when the publisher introduces paid digital subscriptions for its leading mastheads later this year.
The Zuora platform frees Fairfax Media staff from the need to enter and administer potentially millions of reader subscriptions for titles including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, by providing an online self-service facility for subscribers, and by combining commerce, billing, finance and operations features into a single application suite.
Rebuilding For The Future By Focusing on The Needs of Subscribers In A Digital Age
Like many publishers, Fairfax has seen a sharp drop in advertising revenue over the past five years and needed a way to reinvent the business.
Despite frequent and substantial cost-cutting measures, Fairfax still saw its market capitalization decrease substantially since 2008 with advertising revenue plummeting. In 2012, Fairfax unveiled a “Fairfax of the Future” program, which included switching the print model from broadsheet to compact format for two of the company’s most influential mastheads – The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Fairfax is seizing on the opportunity to transform itself and lead the Australian media market in a new digital age. Core to this strategy is a laser focus on addressing the needs of its subscribers. Fairfax aims to meet subscribers where they are: on the web and on a myriad of digital devices; and present high quality content that is relevant to its audience.
Fairfax knows that a simple paywall is not enough, and that core to building a strong subscriber base is the ability to cater to the myriad of subscription options that subscribers will no doubt demand. As Fairfax’s master subscription system, Zuora is a key component of Fairfax’s vision for the future.
Delivering Growth Through the Capture of New Subscription Revenue Streams
Developing a successful digital subscription business model is an essential element of the three-year business restructuring program currently being undertaken at Fairfax in order to address the company's declining print advertising revenues and readership. Under the digital model, some content will remain free to online readers, while the remainder will be accessible via a metered model to paid subscribers.
Andrew Lam-Po-Tang, Fairfax Chief Information Officer said, “The digital shift in the industry creates an enormous opportunity – particularly as companies such as Fairfax focus more on the needs of the subscriber in the digital age. While subscriptions have always been a part of the traditional newspaper industry, it's fair to say they have not been treated as a critical revenue stream, rather as a way of making the relationship between consumer and newspaper more tangible. We’re excited that Zuora is helping us lead that change.”
“The overall broad strategic imperative is to reduce our reliance on advertising – both print and digital – and find other ways to monetise audience relationships. An obvious revenue stream is subscriptions. They are going to be a big part of our future,” he added.
Fairfax anticipates many subscribers will want the ability to tailor their subscriptions, choosing from digital or print only options, mixed print and digital choices, as well as subscription bundles involving two or more mastheads. The selection of Zuora as the master subscription platform solves a major technical challenge for Fairfax, which until now had no way of easily offering digital subscriptions or aggregating subscriptions across mastheads and across print and digital products.
Z-Business for Media: A Master Subscription System Powering The Fairfax Of The Future
Zuora was chosen by Fairfax because it is a cloud-based and digital solution, making it nimble, cost-effective and scalable. Importantly, Zuora offered capabilities across key business areas including commerce, billing and finance unlike other, more point-based solutions on the market.
Z-Business for Media allows Fairfax to:
- Aggregate subscriptions across mastheads and maintain a unified view of their subscriber base
- Offer cross content bundling across different mastheads to enable additional sources of revenue within 6 months
- Monetize digital content in ways that subscribers respond to in order to drive new revenue growth and increase free-to-paid conversion rates
- Automate billing and payment operations at massive scale, delivering operational efficiencies that support revenue growth while keeping operational costs under control.
- Provide subscribers the freedom and control to manage their own subscriptions, for example, select and create their subscriptions online, manage billing and payment preferences, update contact information etc.
- Understand the right business metrics such as ARR, ARPU, free-to-paid conversions and more, to measure the success of the new subscriber-centric revenue model.
Lam-Po-Tang commented, “We don't yet know what our full range of commercial relationships with consumers will be, so having a partner who routinely deals with other forms of subscription relations and who can draw upon global expertise is very useful. Zuora gives us the ability to focus on audience relationships, the quality of our products and on getting the price right, rather than worrying about the mechanics of processing payments or maintaining the platform. We will be able to maintain focus on the stuff that drives our revenue.”
John Ruthven, Vice President – International, Zuora, commented, “Fairfax is emblematic of many of the world's newspaper publishers who are rediscovering the stability and peace of mind behind revenue from subscriptions. This calls for significant change to the publisher-customer dynamic. As the industry shifts away from less stable advertising revenue, forward-thinking companies will require new tools that can empower newspapers to develop a deeper understanding of their readers, become more responsive to their needs, and develop more durable customer relationships.”
Fairfax Media will launch digital subscriptions for international subscribers in March and an Australian roll-out of the system mid-year. For each new initiative, subscription managers will monitor how engaged digital subscribers are and whether readership drops off or increases over time.