We love celebrating our customers’ success here! We’re proud to announce National Review is a finalist for the upcoming Ad Exchanger Awards, an inaugural award “designed to recognize and celebrate the advertising and marketing community’s top achievers, and those who have made the most meaningful impact on the industry this past year.” They’re nominated in the category, “Best Use of Technology by a Publisher.”
To be nominated in this category, the National Review used a CDP to increase subscriptions by 4x without paid marketing efforts and increased webathon donations 2.5 times. We interviewed National Review’s Publisher, Garrett Bewkes, to learn more about how they restructured their technology to build new processes that led to tremendous results.
First, can you tell us a little bit about National Review?
National Review is the leading conservative political opinion and news publication. We publish a magazine 24 times a year, across print and digital platforms, and produce a 24/7 website, www.nationalreview.com. The website publishes a significant amount of content in addition to what’s found in the magazine. This online content includes articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, and slideshows.
Great, thanks for that background! Now, can you tell us a bit about the transformation that National Review went through to reach their goals?
At some point in early 2017, we realized we needed a complete overhaul of our digital products. This included rethinking and redesigning our product offering, adtech and martech stacks, and website—just to name a few major undertakings our small team took on. We had some user data on our readers, donors, and writers; however, the data lived in separate marketing tools. We could only use that sliver of customer data within each specific tool, if we were able to act upon it at all.
Concerned we’d lose users in our website redesign and relaunch, we quickly on-boarded BlueConic, a CDP, to start collecting in-depth user data and provide insights for the new website and digital product offering. Next, we integrated BlueConic into our adtech and martech stacks. Then, we reconfigured features within the platform and used them as the driving technologies behind our new digital subscription offering.
How exactly did you go about integrating your adtech and martech stacks?
Beginning with BlueConic, we utilized open source APIs to have it serve as our metered paywall while also collecting seemingly endless data points that we use to better understand how our users converted into various levels of subscription tiers. BlueConic enabled us to implement a product and data strategy that helped us understand our individual users and then execute marketing tactics to deliver the best possible user journeys with the most meaningful communication and engagement at critical decision moments.
What other data sources do you use to understand customer behavior?
To better understand customer behavior patterns, National Review uses data sources like BlueConic, Sailthru, and Parse.ly, along with our valued customer support data. Unifying this data through BlueConic, in concert with our full martech stack, we have built an in-depth understanding of how, when, and why customers engage with our brand. This has led to the development and implementation of an exceptional product and customer experience. Because we use user-level data across our web and email properties to understand a customer, we are able to drive higher numbers of users to interact with our product. With real-time segments and the ability to analyze data on an individual level, we gathered and utilized more in-depth insights about our audience.
Can you share some of the metrics that improved as a result of this initiative?
When looking at all of our partners and enhanced tools combined, here are the metrics we have improved:
Subscriber acquisition and ROI: We have increased subscriptions 4x without paid marketing efforts thus far, be it on social, search or other
Website traffic: We have improved nearly every major performance & traffic metric including unique visits, sessions, sessions per user, and pages per sessions
Email acquisition and performance: We have doubled email open rates and increased email generated pageviews 4x in partnership with Sailthru and BlueConic
Increased webathon donor revenue by 2.5x.
Prevented potentially poor business investments to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars
The best part? These improvements came at a reduced cost when compared to the tools used prior to overhauling our technology and starting this new initiative. BlueConic was a catalyst for taking a user-centric approach to product development, marketing, and customer engagement. To further improve our customer engagement, we are looking to implement our martech stack for cruise and event marketing, further enhanced webathon marketing, and hopefully one day, eCommerce sales.
What’s next for you and your partnership with BlueConic?
The publishing industry focuses on turning readers into subscribers and sponsors, and with the use of BlueConic, we have been able to set successful examples of how to do that. Through a detailed understanding of reader participation and tracking our efforts on the individual level, we are looking to continuously improve preventing user fatigue and significantly increase personalized messaging efforts and experiences, both for our subscribers and non-paying users.
Now, every communication with our target customers is smart and intentional, driving our relationship with them forward. We have created a personalized experience for readers, incentivizing them to become subscribers. An example of this is our reduced ad experience for paid subscribers. Once readers log in, we reduce ads by a factor of 90%. This improves their user experience and leads to increased loyalty and satisfaction with National Review.
As a next step, we plan to continue to personalize user experiences with the help of BlueConic. We will further unify data points across our varying tech partners for even more granular level ad targeting, subscription acquisition and renewal, and donor outreach to foster a growing and bonded National Review community.
What is the number one piece of advice you’d offer someone planning on implementing a CDP?
The hardest part is figuring out a CDP is actually going to fit your needs and help you meet your goals. For someone who is already certain that a CDP is the right solution for them? Once you’ve made it that far, there isn’t much to consider beyond cost – with one major exception – customer service/success management teams. Even for those that “get data” and understand how to deploy it (and the endless potential such technologies can offer through some innovation), it is quite easy to get lost in all the tools and features that come built-in to such a platform.
Having the right team in place to help see your vision through to a reality, and help you stay focused on the task at hand with so many fun features to get lost in- a customer success team that truly wants to give you the time of day, listen to your goals and needs, and ensure you stay on track to get there is quite key. Plus, like many tech systems- the tools have the capability to do what you want, but at times may need some tweaking.
Find that partner willing to work and do the tweaking with you- that’s what BlueConic did for us, and I can’t imagine we would have had the same success as we did had we gone another direction with our partnership choice.
Thanks, Garrett, for a great interview! If you’re going to be at Programmatic I/O in San Francisco next week, catch Garrett at the Ad Exchanger Awards Gala on Monday, April 29th!