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Build a subscriptions business on Google Play with these new features and best practices

Posted by Tom Grinsted, Product Manager

Subscriptions can be a sustainable source of revenue, allowing you to invest in your long-term business growth with confidence. Subscription apps are growing rapidly on Google Play; the number of subscribers doubled in the last year and spend on subscriptions has increased 10-times over the past three years. To help the growing number of subscription businesses we're seeing, we introduced the subscriptions dashboard in the Google Play Console at I/O 2017. Today, we're adding three new subscription reports covering acquisition, retention, and cancellations to help you understand your data and make informed business decisions. Find information below on the new features, our updated best practices to help you grow your subscriptions business, and stories from other developers succeeding on Google Play.

New subscription reports now available in the Google Play Console

Three new subscription reports in the Google Play Console

The acquisition report enables you to evaluate different acquisition channels, including Adwords and UTM-tagged campaigns. This can help you identify which channels and campaigns are the most successful in acquiring new subscribers.

The retention report displays the lifetime retention of a customized cohort of your subscribers. It allows you to easily compare different subscription products, plots key events such as the end of a free trial, and provides forecasts to enable you to make decisions faster.

Finally, the cancellations report. This detailed cancellation data shows when a user cancels, either voluntarily (such as when they choose to cancel) or involuntarily (for example, when there is payment failure). You can also see whether the cancellation was accompanied by the person uninstalling.

We're continually working to improve the Google Play Console. If you have ideas or feedback on how we can improve the subscriptions features, please let us know.

Take advantage of the new Google Play Billing Library

To benefit from these features, you need to be using Google Play Billing as the payment method for subscriptions in your app. Implementing Play Billing is easy with the new Google Play Billing Library. We've also updated Play Billing so the billing permission will be enforced when the buyer tries to initiate a purchase rather than when you publish your app. This means you can publish a single APK in both Play Billing supported and non-supported countries (rather than maintaining a separate APK that does not use the Billing permission for non-supported countries). Remember to check first if billing is supported before trying to offer any in-app purchases.

Become a 'subscriptions first' company and succeed on Google Play

As developers become more sophisticated with their subscriptions offerings on Google Play, our most successful partners have learned a lot about what does and doesn't work well. Niko Schröer, a partner manager with expert knowledge of subscription apps, has a new post on Medium to help you become a successful subscriptions company. In the post, you'll find a link to our detailed user research on Android subscribers [PDF] published in June 2017, which offers helpful insights into what users look for in a subscription product. We've also published some new best practices on subscriptions, which you can read along with other tips to succeed on Google Play in the Playbook app.

How other developers are succeeding with subscriptions on Play

Viki, a Singapore based video app, uses subscriptions to build a sustainable and predictable revenue stream, allowing them to invest in original content and provide better premium experiences for their users. Total revenue from subscriptions grew over 200% over the year, and by 700% in emerging markets like the Middle East and Latin America. Watch Alex Chan, Senior VP of Product and Engineering at Viki, tell the story.

The developer of Anghami, a popular music service in the Middle East and North Africa, increased the number of subscribers in their app with user interface experiments and introductory pricing. During one promotional period, Anghami used introductory pricing to increase new sign-ups by 400% compared to their average daily sign-ups. Find out more about how Anghami achieves subscription success.

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How USA TODAY NETWORK’s Arizona Republic Found a Mega Story Using CrowdTangle — “Like Viral, Viral”

By Chris Miles, Strategic Partner Manager, CrowdTangle 

On a recent afternoon, the CrowdTangle team received this message from Louie Villalobos, who runs the social media team for the Arizona Republic:

“My social reporter at AZCentral.com in Phoenix reported this story after I spotted it through CrowdTangle. We were the first to report on [it] and the story went viral across the globe … All from a scanning session on CrowdTangle.” 

Talk about a #win. As of early August the story, about an Army veteran’s dying wish, has surpassed 220,000 page views, according to Louie.

A look at CrowdTangle’s Chrome Extension shares for the Arizona Republic story

“That traffic is 79% social and includes 192k unique visitors. The CrowdTangle Chrome Extension tells me that it was shared to more than 19 million people across various Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit pages (the total followers of these pages combined),” Louie says.

“To say it’s a metrics success for us is a massive understatement.

“And that is just our URL,” Louie continued. “I can’t imagine what the USA TODAY version did in traffic.”

The story was cross-posted to usatoday.com, part of the wider USA TODAY NETWORK family which the Arizona Republic is part of, where it notched over 41,000 more Facebook shares, and was shared to over 41 million more people, according to CrowdTangle’s Chrome Extension.

“We use CrowdTangle every day across the USA TODAY Network to track how we’re doing on social, see what interesting stories are being shared, and look for new ideas, just like this success story out of Arizona. Social listening is a key part of our strategy and CrowdTangle is an important tool that helps us listen to and engage with our audiences across the country, and create work that we know will resonate,” says Mary Nahorniak, deputy managing editor for digital at USA TODAY.

So how did Louie and his team use CrowdTangle to find this story?

Creating Custom Lists and Searches in CrowdTangle

Louie and his team have created their own CrowdTangle dashboards, where they can experiment with content discovery in custom Lists and Saved Searches. “I spend a considerable amount of time combing through Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter for story ideas,” Louie says.

He came across a Facebook post asking for text messages for a dying veteran. The post was just beginning to overperform in CrowdTangle’s algorithm when Louie saw it toward the end of a late-night scanning session. He had been exploring different terms including the terms “Arizona,” “Phoenix,” and “veterans.

Metrics outline how the Arizona Republic story overperformed, according to CrowdTangle

“I realized early on that nobody else was reporting this,” Louie says. “After a couple days of verifying what we could, we posted the story on a Thursday evening. It had gone viral by Saturday morning. Like viral, viral.”

The story made impact.

“The veteran had to eventually shut his phone down. They received more than 100k text messages in three days and he was given several quality of life donations as media outlets all over the world picked up on the story.”

Be Detailed: Tailor Searches + Refine Lists + Build Out Viral Alerts

Success for Louie revolved around hyper-detailed search criteria. “My biggest tip for CrowdTangle is that you need to be consistent and detailed. I have also begun filtering by underperforming for certain terms to hopefully reveal some hidden gems,” he says.

“Also, don’t sleep on the viral alerts,” Louie adds, highlighting CrowdTangle’s viral alert system. “Being able to run [viral alerts] through both email and Slack is a great thing. It took me almost a month of tweaking the settings but I think I’ve finally found good footing on what kind of alerts are helpful.”

CrowdTangle allows users to set up a range of different viral alerts, which are sent via email or Slack when a post overperforms. These alerts can be customized based on specific Lists or Saved Search keywords, and can also zero in on video-specific, most shared, or image-centric content.

Louie explains that CrowdTangle can be both “a mirror to your own content while being a sort of metal detector for discovering content.”

“We have social champions and reporters scouring CrowdTangle at all times of the day to help find stories our readers can connect to,” Louie adds.

“A couple reporters, for example, are filtering for local content. My social reporter, though, is branching out to national and international stories because we know that regions don’t matter if a story is interesting enough by itself.”

Louie’s Sage Advice for Audience Development Managers Using CrowdTangle

“I would suggest that CrowdTangle can be an incredibly powerful tool for gauging your audience. I poured through our July Facebook posts and can now tell you what thematically underperformed/overperformed. More importantly, I can tell you what kind of content we might have under or over shared. Pairing that with our in-house metric tools can potentially help us fine tune our feeds.”

“I can’t stress enough how much information CrowdTangle can give social managers. Being able to compare our results to other outlets, for example, really helps us gain a sense of place. Being able to critically look at how our posts perform and what our audience interacts with has been a game changer. It is essentially a real-time metric tool that helps you create accountability for the job your social team is doing. That is invaluable,” he says.

Introducing Watch and Shows on Facebook

By Nick Grudin, VP Media Partnerships

Today we announced Watch, a new platform for shows on Facebook. More information can be found here.

Watch is comprised of shows, a new type of video on Facebook. Shows are made up of episodes – live or recorded – that follow a consistent theme or storyline. Shows are a great format if you want to share a video series, like a weekly cooking show, a daily vlog, or a set of videos with recurring characters or themes.

Our goal is for Watch to be a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work.

Initially, Watch will be available to a limited group of people in the U.S. on mobile, desktop, and our TV apps, before we make it available to more people in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Because we’re early with Watch, we’re starting by testing with a limited group of publishers and creators who are making shows. We are also funding some shows to help seed the ecosystem, gather feedback, and inspire others.

SHOW PAGES

We’re also introducing Show Pages to make it seamless to create a Facebook show and publish new episodes. Show Pages are organized in a way that makes it easy for people to understand what a show is all about, watch episodes and other related videos, and connect with communities that have formed around a show.

We think creating a show has a number of benefits, like the ability to reach a predictable and loyal audience. People will be able to follow the shows they like, and when there’s a new episode of a show, Facebook will inform the show’s followers and the episode will automatically appear in their Watchlist in Watch.

Over time, creators will be able to monetize their shows through Ad Breaks. We’ve been testing Ad Breaks over the past few months, and we will be slowly opening up availability to more creators to ensure we’re providing a good experience for the community. Creators can also create sponsored shows using our branded content tag.

If you would like to register your interest in creating a show, please visit this link. We’re excited to see how creators and publishers use shows to connect with their fans and community.

Tribune Broadcasting Finds their Sweet Spot with Instant Articles

By Josh Mabry, News Partnerships 

Facebook’s Local News Partnerships Manager, Josh Mabry, chatted with Steve Baron, Vice President/Head of Product, Tribune Broadcasting to discuss the company’s strategy with Instant Articles.

Why did you decide to start using Instant Articles on Facebook? What does the format do for your audience?
We are always looking to put our content in places users expect to see it with the fastest loading, best presentation possible. When Facebook announced a plan to help fix one of our long-standing problems (slow load times for articles tapped from the Facebook app) we were eager to give it a try. Our native apps for iOS and Android have always had a lightweight template and ad layout and we look at Instant Articles as a nice way to bring that experience to the web as well.

When did you first begin publishing stories as Instant Articles? How have you seen Instant Articles change over the last 6 months?
We launched Instant Articles as soon as they were fully available for general use in Spring of 2016. Initially we published all Tribune Media content as Instant Articles (over 30,000 links a month) but after a few months, realized we had to be smarter about what content was enabled as an Instant Article to bring revenue in line with mobile web. Mind you, this was over a year ago when Instant Articles was a very new product. After testing many variables we settled on only enabling Instant Articles for articles that are longer than a few paragraphs. We found that as the ‘sweet spot’ where the amount of ads in an Instant Article equaled or exceeded performance on mobile web. Our team built a ‘publishing checklist’ in our CMS to determine what posts would be eligible for publishing as Instant Articles based on six criteria – articles meeting all six criteria get an Instant Article created – those that don’t meet all six open in our responsive website when viewed from Facebook.

You’re utilizing the new ads in recirculation units within Instant Articles. What have you noticed since testing and implementing this feature?
Our revenue operations team says they are very happy with the performance of the new ad units below the content area where the related stories are, and the additional revenue from them brings mobile web and Instant Article revenue to at least an equal point.

How has adopting Instant Articles impacted your business?
Content producers across Tribune Media love Instant Articles as users of Facebook personally, so they like to see their work featured in them as well. The way our CMS is set up it kind of nags you to make your article ‘ perfect’ and earn a ‘6 out of 6’ in our publishing checklist, which in turn unlocks the Instant Article template for any given story. So, there’s actually a little game going on there. The publishing checklist requires an article to have a featured image, text, no extraneous code (div’s, etc) and a few other things – which quite honestly make both Instant Articles and regular web stories more readable and sharable.

Do you have any best practices you can share?
If and when Facebook offers any new features or tips on how to optimize – listen carefully and do your best to adopt them. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help either from peers in the industry or to take advantage of Facebook’s resources, like the News Media & Publishing Group and the Facebook Media Portal.

We know you’re utilizing the new Call-to-Action Units in Instant Articles, what kind of results are you seeing so far?
We launched the new call-to-action units as soon as they were announced; we started to turn them on for our main brand Pages right away. At the time, those brand Pages had around 10-million fans in total. Facebook Insights show we have added around 100,000 new fans via the ‘page like’ call-to-action unit inside of Instant Articles in the three months since then, so it definitely works. It’s interesting to note – most of these new fans are in the same geographic area as the brand, which is great because finding new fans inside of your own local market is challenging.

What best practices do you recommend:

  1. Only create Instant Articles for stories that are longer than a few paragraphs.
  2. Use the ‘auto-ad placement’ feature for all units except the last unit in your article, which you should hard-code in place.
  3. If you use DFP and have a local or national sales team of your own, set up DFP inside of Instant Articles.
  4. Take advantage of all the features Facebook offers; use the call-to-action units to gain new Facebook fans and to collect user email addresses.
  5. Integrate Google Analytics, Chartbeat, and other tools into your Instant Articles.

What else would you encourage local publishers to think about as they start using Instant Articles?
Don’t treat it as an all-or-nothing approach, but at the same time don’t try to hand pick stories you think will perform well as Instant Articles. Spend time testing, do the math, and come up with something that works for your business and your readers.

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