Guardian Membership strategy

Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 10.18.08The Guardian used to be the seventh biggest newspaper in the UK.

Today it has become the third most read newspaper website in the world.

It has achieved this remarkable transformation by doing something that is complete anathema to the old paradigms for “how to run a successful newspaper”: it gives its content away for free.

But if we apply the thinking of The Escher Cycle, we can easily understand why this makes sense.

Deputy chief executive of Guardian News & Media, David Pemsel, recently gave a short speech outlining the organisation’s strategy. It contains a number of elements that resonate with The Escher Cycle.

The simplest of these is shown in the screenshot on the right. It is the ‘Customer Chain’.

Guardian News & Media now thinks about their readers in terms of ‘membership’.

Their strategy is to “Grow, Deepen, and Retain” that membership.

In David Pemsel’s own words, managing Membership “is all about how do we take the huge global reach, translate that into data [about who each reader is, what they are interested in], and how we then create communities of interest where we can then either make more money or start to create deeper relationships with our readers.” (This role will be headed by David Magliano, as MD for membership strategies.)

In Escher Cycle terms this is a classic ‘Customer Chain’.

Customers/Members move from not knowing about the paper, to becoming aware, liking, and trialling the newspaper’s content (‘fickle’ customers). As the relationship deepens, so the Guardian finds it useful to think in terms of two classes of ‘Loyal’ customers: ‘members’ and ‘advocates’.

Here is how the chain works for The Guardian:

  1. First, the free content brings the company what it refers to as ‘Reach‘. The result for the Guardian is that the maximum number of readers get to try out the newspaper, get to know its style, and decide whether they like it.
  2. Accessibility on any device lets readers share the stories they like, which brings what the Guardian refers to as ‘Referral’, which again increases reach (at low marginal cost to the Guardian).
  3. As the members come to Know and Like the paper they start to sign in, and become what The Escher Cycle calls ‘fickle’ customers.
  4. The Guardian learns more about them and guides them to become Loyal Members, either with existing content, or by developing new content specifically for them.
  5. For the deeply loyal readership, the company creates ‘Communities of Interest’, comprised of people who are not so much ‘readers’ of the paper, but rather ‘Members’ of the global community who share the same kind of thinking as the newspaper.
  6. The truly loyal customers become ‘advocates’ of the paper — an unpaid salesforce, if you like, but also the core ‘membership’ that the Guardian serves.
    The deep role of management at Guardian News & Media is now to ‘curate’ that membership — but that’s another story.

Unaware, Aware, Know and Like, Fickle Customer, Loyal Customer (stage 1 and 2) — these are the links along The Customer Chain that are defined by The Escher Cycle (chapter 2).

And here is how they map on to the Guardian’s own slide of that chain:

Guardian Membership Chain


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