Sakal Media Group’s Subscription Strategy, Powered by Small Payments

January 20, 2022
Case Study
Sakal Media Group’s Subscription Strategy, Powered by Small Payments
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Founded in 1932, Sakal Media Group is the largest independently owned media business in Maharashtra. Sakal is the flagship newspaper of Sakal Media Group. It ranks among the top 10 language dailies of India and is the largest circulated Marathi newspaper. E-Sakal receives 14M monthly visits, with a majority of the audience from India.

Digital Strategy Triggered by Falling Ad Revenues

Back in 2018 and 2019, Sakal’s ad revenue started to decline and had fallen by a staggering 30%. This triggered the need for a digital strategy. Sakal wants to become a regional digital subscription leader by creating a deeper engagement with its audience through content that converts followers into subscribers. Sakal’s management team has always pushed for reader revenue by focusing on premium content driven by quality journalism. Yet a lot of questions still remained:

  • What content would its audience engage with?
  • What content would its audience pay for?
  • Will the audience opt for a paid subscription? If yes, what should the subscription be priced at?

Sakal had no visibility into the right content-audience-pricing mix. Through surveys and focus groups, they learned that their audience was not ready to commit to subscriptions. And, that’s where their journey towards small payments began.

Path to Reader Revenue with Small Payments

In early 2020, Sakal started experimenting with pay-per-content by integrating its backend with India’s largest mobile payments service provider and developing the frontend in-house. But this experiment was not scalable. Neither was the payments provider able to support all of Sakal’s requirements beyond checkout nor did the front-end offer a seamless user experience. They quickly realized the need for a more suitable payments vendor - one that supports microtransactions for media-only consumption, while offering a smooth user experience. In their search, they stumbled upon Fewcents.

Sakal went live with Fewcents in January 2021 on their premium content section called Sakal Plus. Fewcents offers Sakal complete control over pricing at an article-level, section-level, and geography-level, as well as managing digital rights in addition to consumption analytics from first-party data.

For Sakal, Fewcents proved to be the perfect first step towards building a paid subscription model. Fewcents has enabled Sakal to identify the content genres, niches, and topics that its audience is willing to pay for. With such quantified visibility, Sakal’s editorial team is able to optimize its content strategy for the best results. Additionally, the Fewcents Customer Success team has been constantly guiding them, based on trends and best practices from other Fewcents-enabled publishers.

Adoption of Small Payments, Growth in Reader Revenue

Within 6 months, Sakal’s visitors to paid users ratio increased by 2X. Additionally, Sakal’s audience - one that was not willing to pay for content - adopted Fewcents instantly Sakal’s total paid unlocks grew 2X in 6 months, and their paid RMP is 114x higher for logged-in users - a testimonial to the ease of use of Fewcents.

Growth is not only from new, first-time users but also from repeat customers. 17% of Sakal’s users have completed more than 10 paid transactions with Fewcents. 28% of them have completed more than 5 paid transactions. One-fifth of its users have completed a paid transaction across 4 months.

Sakal’s learnings from their Fewcents implementation is that small payments serve as the perfect playground to:

  1. Identify the right content niches/categories that the audience is willing to pay for
  2. Identify what price range the audience is comfortable with
  3. Identify what content suits which audience pocket

With proven success, Sakal now plans to expand the Fewcents Paywall to monetize video content, as well as the other websites under the Sakal Media Group.

Value Delivered

Key Metrics #1

Visitors to Paid Users ratio increased >2x in 6 months

- Total Paid Unlocks grew 2x in 6 months

Key Metrics #2

Increasing User Adoption for Paid content.

- Paid RPM is 114x higher once a user logs in

Key Metrcis #3

Increasing Repeat Purchase of Paid Content

- 17% Users completed >10 Paid Transactions

- (28% Users completed >5 Paid Transactions)

- 20% Users completed Paid Transactions across 4 months


“Small payments with Fewcents have been driving our subscription strategy for the last 18 months. The implementation was really easy, and their Customer Success team has been constantly guiding us with our content strategy to accelerate the adoption and growth of paid content. Fewcents is the perfect first step for publishers planning to introduce paid subscriptions''

Swapnil Malpathak, Head of Digital Business, Sakal Media Group

Abhishek Dadoo,

Dushyant Khare

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