How Metropole is generating revenue by helping Vienna’s businesses make their staff feel part of the community

Business subscriptions make up 25% of this Austrian media organisation’s annual recurring revenue (and growing), as a result of its focus on one specific challenge: people settling into a new city.

background

This case study was first published in Engagement Explained, a fortnightly newsletter that brings you in-depth and replicable engaged journalism case studies from news organisations across Europe. Sign up here to receive the next edition in your inbox.

In a nutshell

Meetups and city guides aim to make expatriates and other newcomers to Vienna feel more at home and form a growing part of the Austrian media’s recurring revenue stream.

Background

  • Metropole is an English-language magazine targeted at expatriates living in Austria.
  • It was founded in October 2015 to help people adjust to moving to Austria, and Vienna in particular, and enable them to make the most of their new city.
  • The magazine operates a subscription model with both digital (€30 a year) and print and digital packages (€75 a year) available. It also offers a high-end 365 membership package, which includes access to exclusive events, plus a business subscription for companies (the subject of this case study).
  • The team runs monthly Salon events for Metropole subscribers and members to meet each other and the editorial team — 365 members and print and digital subscribers pay nothing, digital subscribers pay €5 and non-subscribers pay €10. There is also bi-annual events with high-profile speakers at galleries and museums around Vienna.
  • The print edition is published quarterly (it was published 10 times a year until 2019) and has a circulation of around 30,000 copies. Metropole also publishes additional online articles, which are free-to-read.
  • Metropole consists of 12 staff members and is overseen by Margaret Childs (publisher of Home Town Media GmbH and chief executive) and Dardis McNamee (publisher and editor-in-chief).
Subscribers at a Salon event (credit: Adrian Almasan - www.adrianalmasan.com)
Subscribers at a Salon event (credit: Adrian Almasan)

How did they do it?

  • In early 2016, Margaret and Dardis realised that expatriates in Vienna were underserved by English-language media. 460 companies in Vienna use English as their primary language and there are more than 180 English-only programmes across the 20+ public and private universities in the city. Vienna is also home to international bodies including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), meaning many non-German speakers come to the city every year to work and study.
  • The team did some research and found that new residents in Vienna find it particularly difficult to settle in. People struggle to know where to live, which schools to get their children into and where to meet other people. Companies enlist resettlement agencies to help with logistics (for example, transporting possessions or resolving legal issues) but rarely help them integrate into the community. An estimated 20% of people leave a new city within a year because they don’t settle in (according to a Harvard Business Review study) and the cost for companies to rehire can be between €5,000-€15,000.
  • Margaret and Dardis sought to fix that by launching a business subscription that encourages staff in companies to become part of the Metropole community. The business pays for discounted subscriptions (the cost per staff member varies between €11 and €38 depending on how many subscriptions are bought) and in return, staff members receive access to Metropole magazine content and are able to join the monthly Salon events.
  • Since launching this package in 2016, Metropole has built up a base of 20 business subscription clients ranging from small, 10-person teams to multinational corporations. These include Salem (a software solutions company) and Novartis (a global healthcare giant) as well as a number of educational organisations and banks in the city.
  • In 2017, the team began offering staff members welcome packages as an additional service for businesses. This consisted of a branded Metropole bag with the latest issue, one of its survival guide books and a subscription to the magazine. They sold more than 3,000 at a markup of 50% but had to stop because assembling the welcome packs was resource-intensive.
  • Since 2018, the team has encouraged subscribers and members to bring a plus-one to a Salon event for the same price that they pay. This allows people to bring family members and colleagues who may also be lonely or adjusting to the city to become part of the Metropole community.
A Metropole special event at the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna (credit: Adrian Almasan)
A Metropole special event at the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna (credit: Adrian Almasan)

What did they learn?

  • Retention so far is positive — 95% of companies who signed up for a business subscription have continued into their second year. This is significantly higher than the retention rate for consumer subscriptions.
  • So far it has been difficult to measure whether staff are happier as a result of being part of the Metropole community because the transactional relationship is with the business, not the staff member. To help with that, the team is planning to build a dashboard that allows the company to manage staff members access to Metropole (for example, when staff members leave the company) as well as to see who is using their subscription. This will also allow Metropole to survey business subscribers in the same way they do regular subscribers.
  • It can be hard for the Metropole team to find the right person in a company to speak to about a potential business subscription. Depending on the size of a company, human resources, corporate communications or the finance team could be the budget holder and decision-maker. Margaret attends HR conferences to find leads.
  • Be prepared to support business subscriber needs. Companies often have questions (for example, can access be restricted to the company building) so having staff on hand to respond is key. Margaret does this at the moment so Metropole would like to bring in extra capacity as the number of business clients grows.
  • Business subscriptions tend to have some crossover with magazine advertisers and they have been a good way to upsell both types of clients. For example, a university that has a business subscription was sold an insert in Metropole’s new survival guide to education because they had an existing relationship.
  • Testimonials are important but hard to prioritise. The Metropole team has wanted to ask business subscription clients for a few words for months to showcase on the online store but other things have taken precedence and they haven't got round to it.

In their own words

Margaret Childs, chief executive officer, Home Town Media (publisher of Metropole)

"Business subscribers are more like advertisers than subscribers in that they need more attention. Some have requests which we need to take action on. It’s more like a key account relationship”.

How would you improve it?
"I would have liked to have had a dedicated sales person focused on business subscriptions from the start. There’s scope for growth and we think this will be our biggest source of recurring revenue by 2024".

Now try it for yourself

RELATED READING

More resources from the Engaged Journalism Accelerator

Report: Stronger journalism through shared power

A report exploring more equitable power dynamics between news organisations and the communities they are serving

Redistributing power in communities through involved journalism

P. Kim Bui, audience innovation director at The Arizona Republic, looks at the complex and shifting power dynamics in this Membership Puzzle Project report

How The Bristol Cable got 100+ people to take part at its annual member meeting

The UK co-operative allowed its members to input on strategy, editorial coverage and resource allocation

  • CIVIL
  • News Integrity Initiative
  • Image