Weeks before their website went live or a single word was published, local news startup The Colorado Sun had already launched with well over 1,500 paying members Here’s how they did it.
In the spring of 2018 many journalists at The Denver Post had had enough. Since the Post had been acquired by a hedge fund five years earlier, it had seen cut after successive cut. The newsroom no longer felt supported, and many of its venerated journalists were ready to move on.
And so The Colorado Sun was born. The community-supported, journalist-owned news outlet would attempt to “inform, engage and entertain readers... by shining light on the news that matters.” National press coverage followed, leading to grant money and a successful Kickstarter campaign. But this was all to get off the ground. The Sun would still need to convert their supporters into members, whose recurring payments would ensure sustainability for the months and years to come.
Rather than wait until their website was live and content was published – which was still many weeks away – The Sun team decided to begin its membership program early on a landing page hosted by Pico (whose software would power the program on-site). This not only allowed them to capture all the momentum that had been built up prior to launch; it also gave them a running head start on their journey to sustainability.
The team began promoting the landing page on social media and emailed all their Kickstarter donors with a promo code offering them 10% off annual memberships.
The result? In the 74 days the landing page was live prior to launch – before a single article was published – The Sun had signed up over 1,500 paying members across two different tiers – one for basic membership and the other that included a premium newsletter.
Even though The Sun mostly processes new memberships now with a pop-up modal on-site, they continue to use landing pages if they are marketing memberships to readers who are not currently browsing (e.g., in marketing emails). Landing pages can also give them the flexibility to make special offers to just a particular segment of prospective members on their email list, in a social media post or ad, or even at a live event. Some publishers leverage multiple landing pages to split test offer language and pricing.
With the increasing popularity of email newsletters, landing pages allow publishers to sign up readers directly for free and paid options without ever having to visit a website.