“After 6 months on Zuora, new subscription conversions had improved by 30% and retention by 25%.” – Curtis Huber, Senior Director, Circulation and Audience Revenue at The Seattle Times

Company The Seattle Times
Industry Media

The Customer

Founded in 1896, The Seattle Times is a family-owned, daily US newspaper. It has the largest circulation in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region.

The Challenge

When the company decided to adopt an audience-centric business model, it realized it didn’t have the right subscription management systems required to make the shift.

The Solution

Zuora’s cloud-based solutions helped The Seattle Times launch an easy, digital sign-up process, process payments, and manage readers through their entire subscriber lifecycle.

The Benefits

On the Zuora platform, The Seattle Times saw new digital conversions improve by 30% and retention improve by 25%.

“62% of all subscribers who stopped a digital-only subscription didn’t stop because they wanted to, we stopped them because we couldn’t process a payment.” – Curtis Huber, Senior Director, Circulation and Audience Revenue at The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times' Story


Zuora’s cloud-based solutions helped The Seattle Times build a subscriber-based revenue model driven by easy digital sign-up, frictionless payment processing, and end-to-end management of the entire subscriber lifecycle.

Founded in 1896, The Seattle Times is a family-owned, daily US newspaper with the largest circulation in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region. As early as 2013, the company realized that in the future, profitability would depend on revenue from subscribers instead of the traditional advertising-based model.

“We realized we were becoming a subscription-first revenue business, and we needed the digital subscriber,” explained Curtis Huber, Senior Director, Circulation and Audience Revenue at The Seattle Times.

This audience-centric model required that every business decision should be driven by improving the user experience. The content was important, of course. But the entire subscriber experience had to be built around what customers wanted.

“Audience-centric media companies have to think and act like eCommerce companies,” explained Huber. “It's way beyond just a self-service portal for bills, and payments, and registering complaints. The entire subscription experience has to be intuitive and easy to navigate.” For example, customers want the ability to pause their print delivery while they're on vacation.

So The Seattle Times made the decision to double down on technology, design, user experience, and satisfying customer needs.

However, they quickly realized their legacy payment system, which was built around print subscriptions, wasn’t sufficient. For one thing, there was a lot of involuntary churn due to failed payments. “62% of all subscribers who stopped a digital-only subscription didn't stop because they wanted to; we stopped them because we couldn't process a payment,” says Huber.

It was time to call Zuora.

The Zuora platform was already optimized for digital consumers out of the box, and it could handle customer demands for frequent changes to their subscriptions. The Seattle Times started off implementing Zuora for new digital subscriptions and eventually migrated all of its digital-only subscribers as well as print subscribers to the Zuora system.

“We focused on frictionless acquisition flow and dealing with the billing riddle at the end of it,” says Huber. “Zuora made it simple – consumers can subscribe quickly. No cost of acquisition, no cost of fulfillment. A little fee to process a payment and we are growing and retaining revenue. That's what we needed.”

According to Huber, “Overnight, new subscription conversions improved by 30%. There’s nothing I've done in my career that has impacted subscription start numbers like that! We’ve also captured new consumers that have never subscribed before. And those that are starting their subscriptions are sticking around. We improved our retention by another 25%.”

Today, The Seattle Times has more than 65,000 subscribers and saw a 35% increase between the months of March and June 2020.

“Zuora made it simple – consumers can subscribe quickly. No cost of acquisition, no cost of fulfillment. A little fee to process a payment and we are growing and retaining revenue. That’s what we needed.” – Curtis Huber, Senior Director, Circulation and Audience Revenue at The Seattle Times

“Most newspapers still have 50% or less of their revenue coming from their audience. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, advertising revenue has significantly declined, so that’s not the winning recipe for growing audience share, obviously.” – Curtis Huber, Senior Director, Circulation and Audience Revenue at The Seattle Times

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