Racing Post: A Case of Replacing a DIY Paywall


Article ImageCompany: Racing Post

Since 1986, Racing Post has made delivering information, scorecards, and more to horse racing enthusiasts its mission. According to its website, Racing Post “has generated a readership that is active, responsive and keen to indulge its passion for horse racing and sport.” Not only does it include racing news, but it also provides racing cards for those who like to bet on the ponies. Additionally, it sells a variety of merchandise, including books.

(racingpost.com)

Business Challenge

Racing Post is one of the lucky publications that has its niche cornered. Similar to publications with a strong hold on their audience, it has successfully put online subscriptions to good use since the early 2000s. But not all paywalls are created equal, and Racing Post was working with a homemade solution that was no longer cutting the mustard. It decided to revamp its paid content strategy to better serve its consumers, grow subscriber numbers, and collect greater insight into its audience.

Vendor of Choice: MPP Global

MPP Global specializes in media and entertainment monetization. According to its website, MPP Global’s “eSuite is the only fully integrated cloud platform to identify, engage and monetize digital audiences. eSuite has been designed and developed for the media, entertainment, sports and retail industries.”

(mppglobal.com)

 

The Problem In-Depth

Paywalls have raised many questions for publishers. Should we install one? How tight should we close the gate? How much do we charge for admission? But whether or not to install a paywall wasn’t a question Racing Post struggled with—at least not for long. “We built one of the first paywalls in the market in 2000,” says James De Wesselow, head of subscriptions at Racing Post. “We first launched a dedicated paywall and payment system in 2008. We soon realized we had a lot of work to do around security and access management. In 2014, we started looking for a new partner who could help us with these challenges.”

In the beginning, there weren’t many options for publishers looking to install a barrier between audiences and their valuable content, so Racing Post built its own paywall. But several years in, that homespun solution was hitting its own wall. According to De Wesselow, “Our old system, built in-house, was a bit antiquated and did not streamline the processes that we felt were most important—centralizing data, offering an easy-to-use UI [user interface], creating flexible packages, and extending broad offers to entice new users. It also had unforeseen or hidden IT costs which are easy to ignore but are there nonetheless.”

By the time Racing Post was looking to update its subscription management solution, the market had changed, and there were plenty of new options. That was a good thing because something was clear to De Wesselow: “The problem of maintaining a system could not be fixed with an in-house product. We needed a specialist who could maintain the updates on our behalf on an ongoing basis.”

After a complete evaluation of its IT systems, Racing Post decided it was time to start looking at third-party vendors.

The Solution

In any search for new software, there is a long list of must-haves that every company comes up with. Racing Post was no exception to that rule and knew exactly what it was looking for. “When looking for a vendor, we wanted to find a company that specialized in [subscription management] systems, as well as had a proven track record with other clients,” De Wesselow says. “We were focused on a provider who met five core needs and could be flexible to meet the specific needs of our niche publication.” Those needs were as follows:

  • Ease of integration
  • Understanding of the market
  • Expertise
  • Focused on security and payments
  • Centralization

That’s where MPP Global stepped in. Angela Morelis, its VP of strategic accounts, says, “Once Racing Post did an audit of their subscription management platform and decided it would make most sense to tap a third party to implement technology that was already successful, MPP Global was a natural contender given our proven work in the space.”

More specifically, De Wesselow says, “With MPP Global, we are able to manage every aspect of our customers’ journey and lifecycle in one cloud-based system.” He adds that “MPP Global’s experienced team collaborated closely with us to achieve maximum potential and revenues from implementing their systems.”

De Wesselow says the Racing Post team was looking for a vendor with a proven track record with media companies, and in the U.K., it doesn’t come much bigger than Daily Mail and Sky—both of which use MPP Global’s eSuite. So the company had serious bona fides on its side, but there were also the technical aspects to consider. “MPP Global had a Level 1 PCI-DSS accreditation which made us feel confident that our clients’ information would be secure,” says De Wesselow. “The company also has the capabilities to process payments across a wide range of currencies and languages.” 

Finally, there was the issue many companies are struggling with: centralization. “We wanted a system that would reduce costs and headaches associated with trying to fit different systems together. MPP Global’s eSuite platform provided us with a one-stop shop for payments, subscriptions and billing, entitlements, CRM [customer relationship management], promotions, metering, churn prevention, and beyond.”

 

The Outcome

“The implementation of eSuite began at the end of 2014, and by July 2015 we moved 12,000 subscribers to the new system quite seamlessly,” says Morelis. “The secure transition of that many people’s information was our top priority and working closely with Racing Post to normalize that data, we were able to ensure very minimal disruption of their operations.”

The success of a new subscription management solution is often measured by subscription revenue—and that’s true here too—but there are other ways to calculate success. For instance, “[eSuite] has allowed our employees to focus on their key roles rather than the technical implementations of the paywall technology,” says De Wesselow. “For example, our marketing team can think about what types of offers will resonate best with our readers instead of spending time thinking about how to technically make those updates to our system, which were, in any case, difficult to do without IT support.”

And speaking of the marketing team, De Wesselow points to another selling point for eSuite: “We were particularly impressed with MPP Global’s ability to update marketing offerings in real time. With their algorithmic rules, we are able to seamlessly offer personalized promotions and offerings to our readers based on their behaviors and interactions with our content.” Things have been simplified for Racing Post’s users as well. Returning users can make purchases with one click and upgrade (or downgrade) their subscriptions on their own.

How does that translate to dollars and cents? According to Morelis, “As of now, evidence from the rollout suggests that Racing Post will see their subscriber’s number jump 30% in the coming year.”

Racing Post is still making tweaks to the new system and learning to employ all of the features eSuite offers. “We recently implemented the Updater file process which allows for auto-updating of card details when they expire,” says De Wesselow.  “Churn rates have subsequently improved as a result. MPP Global’s Access Management System allows access to specific areas of content by package and this is an area we will continue to develop over the next few months.”  


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