A return to profitability is on the cards for The Australian and the newspaper’s new subscriber benefits program is part of that push, the newspaper’s chief executive Nicholas Gray has said.
The Australian Plus launched last week and encompasses offers, events and experiences for subscribers to The Australian and Business Spectator.
Launch offers included meetings with weekend editor Michelle Gunn and columnist Nikki Gemmell, dining with restaurant critic John Lethlean and taking advantage of complementary subscriptions to international News Corp publications.
Mr Gray said the primary target of the program is existing subscribers.
“That’s where a lot of the initial marketing is being directed,” he said.
“We know from The Times [subscriber benefits program] and the News+ experience that members who activate a reward are more likely to remain loyal, remain a subscriber for years into the future.”
The most recent count puts digital subscribers to The Australian at 65,735, which Mr Gray says is a 15 per cent gain on the equivalent period in 2013.
The Plus program is built around three pillars – access to journalists, special offers and experiences.
“We know from our research and from other rewards programs within News Corp that access to our journalists is a particularly important pillar,” he said.
“This is not just another rewards program … that access pillar is what differentiates us from other rewards programs in media, and certainly from other [non-media programs].”
The Australian is also “on a clear pathway to profitability,” Mr Gray says. “Part of that is continuing to grow that digital membership base.”
He would also like to “grow the price [subscribers] pay” down the track, using The Australian Plus as a hook.
“We’re now charging six dollars a week and we’d like to grow that over time, but ensure that we provide great value at our price point, and The Australian Plus is yet another way to provide great value,” Mr Gray said.