How America Media went from 0 to 10,000 paying subscribers in 9 months

First published in 1909, America is a journal of opinion sponsored by the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. The publication covers politics, culture, Vatican news, spirituality and more for a national audience.

America migrated online in 2000, and by 2007 was posting web-exclusive content that wasn’t included in the print magazine. After making a major investment in digital operations in 2015, America came to Piano in 2020 looking for a solution to enable online registration and donations.

The Challenge

America launched its initial strategy with Piano in 2020, encouraging readers to register for online accounts. The goal was then to ask users to donate through daily newsletters and email correspondence.

While the registration wall was a success—netting America more than 40,000 new email registrations in just eight months—and donations improved dramatically during annual appeals, the incremental donation request was not effective enough to sustain a growing media business model.

To hit their revenue goals, they needed to move to a paid subscription model, which required them to address three core questions:

  • Would people really be willing to pay for religious media?
  • How would paywalling content impact traffic?
  • Would this cannibalize the donations they typically receive?

The Solution

They started by launching a new subscription landing page outlining all available offers, benefits and FAQs, then used split testing to optimize their registration wall and paywall templates. The initial launch, driven by the large audience already gathered through newsletter sign-ups, was very successful, generating more than 5,000 paid subscriptions in the first two months.

America then implemented Piano’s machine learning algorithms to segment and target users with dynamic offers based on their LtS (Likelihood to Subscribe) scores. Targeting a user segment with the highest propensity allowed them to maintain steady growth through the first year of their digital subscription.

Over time, they deployed additional personalization tactics, such as engaging readers with content recommendations in articles to keep them on site for longer and offering promotions to specific audience segments, like a Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal for previously-churned users.

The Results

In the first week alone, they gained more than 2,000 subscribers and went on to achieve their annual goal of 10,000 subscribers in only nine months. Perhaps even more impressive, designated giving days drove record donations, quelling any concerns about impacting regular donations.

America now has more than 100,000 registered users and 12,000 paid digital subscribers, in addition to 35,000 traditional print subscribers (10,000 of whom have linked their accounts for digital access).

Thanks to its collaboration with Piano, America Media has been able to accomplish its goals of providing a superior digital experience for readers, while driving subscription revenue and donations to support the Society.