Case study: Using free subscriptions to build paid memberships
A Different Goal
For more than 30 years, Land Line has been the publication for independent truck drivers. As a veteran publisher with close ties to the industry it serves, Land Line has a thorough and intimate knowledge of its readership.
But Land Line is also a little different than most publications. Despite its wealth of content in various media, its end goal isn’t to sell subscriptions.
Land Line is the print voice of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). Land Line Media encompasses a set of resources they put together for their paid members: valuable news and editorials for their industry.
It wasn’t until a few years after they went digital that Land Line decided to make their publication a selling tool for the membership itself.
For that, they needed to redesign their whole digital presence, with that one goal in mind.
They needed a seamlessly integrated site, with immersive, customized content to build a relationship with their audience before asking them to commit to a membership.
And, with the end product complete, they delivered by the truckload. Since the relaunch of Land Line Media, they’ve seen their traffic soar.
A Long, Varied History
Land Line’s digital presence was an evolving thing. They weren’t slow to adopt it. (On the contrary, people familiar with the history of computers will geek out over the knowledge that they still run their database on an IBM AS 400 and it works just fine for them.)
But because they were early adopters, they went digital piece by piece and so ended up with a piecemeal publication.
They had three different sites. One was repository of PDF versions of their existing print magazine. One was Tandem Thoughts, their news and opinion blog-style publication. And one was for Land Line Now, their daily podcast/Sirius XM radio show.
It was all cross-linked and stitched together but it wasn’t streamlined. It wasn’t easy to navigate or access. And it wasn’t particularly mobile-friendly, which is a big no-no when your audience spends a significant amount of time on the road.
So it was time for a more elegant solution.
A Streamlined Experience
The first thing that ZEEN101 did for Land Line was to bring all their publications together into one site, under the heading of Land Line Media.
For a full tour of that upgrade, you can watch the video that narrates their new site.
But for the highlights:
The homepage shares equal weight with the three publications: easy access to the most recent issue of the magazine at the top right, the news and opinions in the center and scrolling down, and the most recent podcast show accessible at the top left.
The menu is simplified to just the core headings: News, Opinions, Podcasts, Archives. There’s an advanced search function for anything more specific.
The magazine itself went from PDFs to a true digital web issues, searchable and shareable on the web. The archives (and yes, the PDFs are still there, too) are also available once you click past the homepage.
Clicking into LandLine Now gives you not only the most recent podcast but also a breakdown and minute marker of the topics covered. It also provides ‘Read More’ links for further interest in those topics. The entire archive of the podcast is available, as well.
Building A Relationship
The new, streamlined website is designed specifically to build a relationship with Land Line readers.
First of all, the content demonstrates a strong understanding of the trucking audience: it is mobile-friendly and customizable for an audience on the road.
Over 70% of Land Line’s readership is mobile.
The design reflects that demographic: it is responsive, meaning that it adapts to a smaller screen, with phone-style dimensions, without losing functionality.
The menu and logo adapt to a smaller width. The main content shrinks to match. And the digital issue means the magazine can be read on a mobile screen without a PDF’s awkward side-to-side scrolling or tiny, illegible print.
Deliver a unique news experience.
Land Line’s awareness of reader needs extends beyond the layout. Truckers, by definition, travel across the country. And different regions require different topics of interest.
Which is why subscribers have the option of customizing their news feed. They can select their choices by topic and geography. The five most recent articles for each category are then displayed for them.
If they decide to filter for news by state, they are presented with a map that allows them to click on the states they’ll be traveling through. It’s a visual selection tool that allows them to easily highlight the news from their latest routes.
Perhaps most importantly, the content subscription is free. If you are in the trucking industry, you can sign up for a free subscription to all of Land Line’s content.
Leaky Paywall meters the content two articles at a time. When those are used up, readers are encouraged to subscribe.
By registering for a subscription, readers are becoming part of OOIDA’s pipeline to membership. It allows them to get to know the organization before ever being asked to join as a paid member.
Easing the Process
And hey, Landline has built in other ways to build relationship with their readers, even if they aren’t ready to register for a subscription. They make the most of their transition points—when readers are satisfied with what they’ve read and looking for more—to ask for incremental commitments.
At the end of each article is the option to join the newsletter:
After 2 free articles the reader is presented with the free subscription offer in order to gain full access.
Registering online starts the path to membership as now Land Line emails there news, issues and podcasts straight to the readers mailbox.
Each podcast transcript reminds readers of the advantage of subscribing to the show.
All of these features are designed to sell trucking readers on the value that OOIDA can add to their lives.
Make New Friends, But Keep The Old
And the new website accomplishes all of this without alienating their existing subscribers.
Long-term subscribers to the print magazine can easily gain access to the online content through a simple integration with Land Line’s existing central database. (That’s right, the one that runs on the AS 400).
We added a small field to the sign-up page that guides print readers to signing up using their customer number. That number can be found on the shipping label of any issue of the magazine.
And it’s just that easy to add the new integrated, digital experience to existing members’ idea of Land Line.
And what is that idea? It should be that Land Line (and through them, OOIDA) is an organization that understands the independent trucker and has their interests at heart.
With the streamlined experience, the customized content, the mobile access, and the desire to build a relationship, Land Line’s new site has launched as a great tool for attracting paid memberships to their parent organization.