Frontier Myanmar on knowing your audience

What we learned from Frontier about memberships.


The context

Frontier Myanmar, a news and business publication in Yangon, launched its membership offering just in time for Covid-19, as the pandemic caused advertisers to pull out and ad-backed media companies saw revenues plummet. 

CEO Sonny Swe says building a membership product was hard. Myanmar’s economy was already slowing before Covid-19. Frontier Myanmar’s subscriptions aren’t growing at the expected rate, all commercial projects have either been canceled or postponed, and any grants they’ve received or planned to apply for have been delayed. Frontier Myanmar is powering on, and just as Swe spoke on Splice Low-Res, one institutional membership rolled in. “[There’s] no offense, we are playing defense,” said Swe.


Building community

“Keep talking to your audience about what they like,” emphasized Swe. “No one has [the] exact model of memberships, you need to tailor… your own.” 

Before launching memberships, Frontier created small focus groups with businesspeople, journalists, and academics to hammer out what they thought the ecosystem needed. These focus groups confirmed their belief that there was a need for tight-knit, focused communities and personalized news, which Frontier is building through multiple newsletters and member-only offline events. Details:

  • An individual membership costs $80/year and includes access to the Behind the Scenes newsletter, to events, and to the digital edition of Frontier before the print edition arrives at newsstands
  • For $150/year, subscribers get access to all benefits of the individual membership plus the Frontier Daily Briefing newsletter, which features Myanmar’s current affairs
  • For $250/year, subscribers get the individual memberships, the Daily Briefing newsletter, and the Media Monitor, which rounds up the front-page headlines of Myanmar-language news and translates top stories
  • For $100/year, readers in Myanmar also receive a print subscription
  • Frontier also sells packages to institutions — 20 logins for $250/month. So far, Swe says Frontier has sold 29 of these memberships. 

Some tips from Swe about launching subscriptions and building community:

  • Newsletters are the best distribution strategy for focused communities
  • “If you’re promoting memberships and you’re promoting what you do on social media, I would say social media is like a shotgun…” he explained. “Newsletters are like snipers. You can… really narrow down and basically shoot to your audience, and explain what you’re doing, and be very effective.”
  • Test e-commerce when you’re launching. Frontier left e-commerce testing until the end, and ran into problems like Myanmar credit cards not being accepted and the default display for pricing being Singapore dollars

Meghna is a writer in New York. Previously, she helped launch and was the managing editor of New York-based The Juggernaut, worked as a researcher at CB Insights, and reported on tech out of Bangalore for Tech in Asia. Follow Meghna Rao on Twitter.

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