Since 2005, TechCrunch has been the go-to source for the latest news on technology and startups, with a thriving events business and 15 million monthly active users (per ComScore). Then they decided to bring on something extra. On February 12, 2019, with the help of Piano’s platform for digital media, the Verizon-owned company launched Extra Crunch. The subscription-based product offers users access to exclusive deep-dive content especially for startups, savings on TechCrunch events, and a premium experience that includes the new Rapid Read and List Builder tools — making it easy to read content faster or simply save it for later instead.
Piano spoke to Travis Bernard, TechCrunch’s head of audience development, about Extra Crunch. We began by asking him about how TechCrunch approached planning the new subscription product.
Travis Bernard: I think there are a few main reasons we thought this was the right time. For one, over the last few years the lion's share of digital ad revenue has been going to Google and Facebook, and that's something we're aware of as a publisher. We're also at a time in history where there is a lot of distrust in the media — that's obviously been a hot topic over the last two or three years.
But besides those market forces, scale for the sake of scale was not really the best foot forward for TechCrunch's audience. If you're thinking about the traditional advertising model, you have to continue to attract larger audiences in order to keep that display ad revenue going up, and we didn’t really want that. We weren’t interested in watering down our existing coverage, or doing more general coverage to attract a wider net of audience members. So we started studying our loyal readers and really found that there was an opportunity to take more of a utility approach to helping the community. We ran the numbers and found that not only is there a huge opportunity to help our community, but this business model actually makes a lot more sense to us, and it scales a lot better in our scenario.
Bernard: The most important thing for us was keeping everything that you already know and love about TechCrunch free. We wanted the subscription product to be something new that you weren't already getting with the existing site or events offerings. So I think from that lens a premium layer on top of the existing editorial content made the most sense. That way we didn't have to put any of the existing content behind a paywall and we didn't have to adjust our events so that they were for subscribers only. By adding this kind of premium layer we were able to add new content and new experiences.
Bernard: It took about two years for the entire project. The first year was really the research part of it. Then around this time last year was when we decided: “Let's do it now. Let's get moving on everything.”
Bernard: From an audience perspective the goal was really about finding ways to help our community of thought leaders and entrepreneurs. From a business perspective it was about launching another pillar for revenue. We wanted something that was utility driven, but also had a mix of content, tools and access.