National Geographic Case Study

Over 57,000 new subscriptions generated last year

Jellyfish CoNNect has been working with National Geographic since 2007 and generated 57,284 new UK and international subscriptions for the magazine last year.

We run targeted digital marketing campaigns, delivering high volumes of qualified paid-for traffic to eight specifically designed National Geographic subscription campaign sites (all built, optimised and managed in-house by Jellyfish CoNNect) as part of an inclusive fixed fee CPA commercial model.

Eight bespoke subscription campaign sites

The eight sites are designed for the UK, Republic of Ireland, Europe, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and other International markets, each featuring relevant content and subscription offers. The European and International sites also host separate landing pages for key target countries which show relevant pricing/currencies for Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Local language as well as English landing pages are also hosted where appropriate.

Landing pages contain subscription sales driven copy, prominent and strategically placed call-to-actions, and the sites have a slick and user-friendly sign-up and payment funnel, taking payment in the customer’s own local currency.

A variety of content is included on the landing pages, illustrating the breadth of the editorial and pictorial. This also allows for broad PPC Search bidding, outside key brand terms, which in turn delivers relevant people who might not have otherwise been looking to take up a National Geographic magazine subscription.

Extensive range of digital marketing channels used

PPC Search (using both Google and Bing! networks), display advertising (including the Google Display Network, Taboola, ContentClick, Yahoo Gemini and Gmail Sponsored Promotions), remarketing (search, display, social and email), social advertising (including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) and email have all been used to drive high quality traffic to the sites and have successfully converted visitors into subscribers.

Regular testing and continual optimisation

Different subscription prices and offers are tested regularly including annual, student, 6-month and 2 year offers, as well as gift subscriptions particularly around Christmas, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Constant testing allows for optimisation of ad copies, and site and payment funnel conversion rates. And the site is mobile friendly in order to maximise the potential subscription volumes from visitors increasingly using mobile devices.

Additional sales via

As well as selling subscriptions through the dedicated subscription sites, Jellyfish CoNNect also promote and sell National Geographic subscriptions through as part of the inclusive fixed fee CPA business model.

The results

We have seen consistent year-on-year growth in subscription volumes:

  • Last year subs grew 10% (from 51,975 to 57,284)
  • In the last 2 years subscriptions have grown by 23% (from 46,390 to 57,284)
  • In the last 5 years subscriptions have grown by 64% (from 34,934 to 57,284)

Since launching in 2007:

  • Over 250,000 new subscriptions have been generated
  • Over 400 million National Geographic ads have been served

What the client says

‘Jellyfish CoNNect is a valuable long-term partner. Working closely together means we constantly react to changes on the digital landscape and continue to deliver high subscription volumes which contribute to the overall growth in National Geographic’s circulation every year. We introduced growth targets to incentivise the Jellyfish team, which works well with the CPA model, and this delivered great results. Keep up the good work.’

Walt Terry - Director of International Marketing

Campaign sites:


Republic of Ireland:


South Africa:



New Zealand:


Here is a nice brief of a HBS case study on National Geographic Society (NGS). 

NGS has been struggling to increase its sales since 1990s and roped in a new CEO in 1996. The case study deals with the changes and challenges in the organisation since then.

Teaching a case study on the National Geographic Society for the first time, HBS professor David A. Garvin walks out to the middle of the horseshoe-shaped classroom and asks his students, “How many of you have familiarity with National Geographic magazine?”

Nearly all 72 students, many from foreign countries, raise their hand. “What do you associate with it?” The yellow border, answers one. Others note the stunning photography, detailed maps, and magazines piled up all around the house.

A few minutes later National Geographic CEO John Fahey is addressing the class, and recalls the remark about magazine piles. “That has come back to haunt us,” Fahey says. “People today don’t want clutter.”

It turns out that many things that made National Geographic one of the world’s top brands during its 123 years are obstacles to overcome. Like many other print publications, National Geographic’s subscription revenue has declined significantly, from $284 million in 1999 to $211 million in 2009. The value of becoming a member of the Society, once a matter of prestige, has eroded. The institution has made large bets on various forms of media—Internet, movies, TV, cable programming—but is still trying to figure out the best strategy for integrating them. Despite repeated structural changes, employees still operate in silos.

In short, the National Geographic case is fertile learning ground for managers. Its lessons address transforming the culture, behaviors, and values of a legacy organization, changing a business model from paper to digital, capitalizing on huge brand awareness and international presence, and promoting cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration.

As it has been 15 years since Fahey joined, students debate whether he has been too slow? Is he taking the right steps etc? 

What are the lessons from the case?

The first relatively straightforward lesson is how difficult it is to move beyond your historical culture and legacy,” Garvin continues. “History has power. Faulkner writes in Requiem for a Nun, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ Old ways of thinking and acting are deeply embedded and slow to change. So practitioners need to understand the powerful influence of the history of their own organizations.”

Other lessons include the importance of getting the organizational culture right, and the need to pull multiple levers when pursuing integration. “There is an organizational structure lever Fahey pulls when he reorganizes. There is a culture and values lever—he changes what behaviors are valued in the system as they move from silos to collaboration. There is a people lever; you often have to change personnel. And there is an incentive lever where you change the compensation structure. All of those need to be done in a mutually reinforcing fashion.”

Finally, combining the Time Life and National Geographic cases offers a unique view of how a manager evolves over time. “If you teach the cases together it shows students both how a general manager’s style evolves and how it stays very much the same. And practitioners need to recognize that 20 years out, in a different organization, perhaps their natural tendency when faced with problem X again is to do Y, but maybe problem X is a little different in this organization and this context than the other one. So maybe this time you don’t do Y, you do Z.”

There are some intriguing comments as well at the end.

NGS is something which is in fond memories of most. Now people may not be seeing the magazine but the TV channel format is a major hit especially with children. Interesting to know more about the organisation…

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm and is filed under Academic research & research papers, Economics - macro, micro etc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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