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Strategic insights
Measure Unique Subscribers

Written by on March 13, 2013

Here is a quick tip to my analytics friends, just to put things into perspective.

Most publishers track visitors as unique visitors. The problem is that it if you run a subscription-based site, it tells you nothing about your subscribers. So on my site, I measure unique subscribers.

And here is what I found (see the picture below):

On average, only between 30-40% of my subscribers see an article. And of those, only 60-70% actually read it. Meaning, only 22% read my articles.

That's just scary, but there is nothing really surprising about it. We can't expect all our subscribers to see every single article, nor can we expect that everyone reads everything they see.

(Especially not with Baekdal Plus where the average article is 20-25 pages long).

And then you have to ask, how many subscribers share an article? In my case, that number is about 15%. And then, how many non-subscribers does that attract? Which in my case in my case averages about 2000% (although it varies greatly depending the number of followers for that subscriber. Some only generate 300%, while others generate 100,000%.)

Think about that for a moment. Sharing done by only 15% of the 35% of my subscribers, drives 4x more traffic than the total number of subscribers who saw the article. This is why sharing is vital!

So why is this important you ask? Well, apart from understanding the behavior of your subscribers, this is very often the cause of your churn rate ... i.e. the rate of those who don't renew their subscription.

If only 35% of your subscriber ever see the article, the next time the remaining 65% have to renew their subscription, some might simply decide not to. And that's not good.

Of course, this is per article, so it's bit more complicated than that. You have look at it across articles as well to identify those that you have lost.

The point is that if you only look at unique visitors, you simple don't know what is actually going on. You will never know how important sharing is. And you never be able to identify those who have simply forgotten that you even exists.

Also consider how massively different this is from advertising based analytics. If your site is monetized by advertising, the quantity of traffic is the most important element. Meaning that for advertising-based analytics, the blue bars are more important than the green bars. But for subscription based analytics, the greens bar is what causes the blue bars.

And here is something even more profound to think about: If I could change the 35% (subscribers who see an article) to 50% ... and increase the sharing rate from 15% to 25%, I would double the overall traffic.

Of course, doing that is much easier said than done!

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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