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Illustration created by Alina Najlis.

If You Want More Paying Subscribers, Invest in Identity

An interview with our partner, Houston Inc. about why identity is critical for building an audience

July 25, 2019

Illustration created by Alina Najlis.

Thanks to digitization (and a lot of human effort and planning), the media and entertainment industry has transformed from a network of products to a network of services. Media and entertainment customers now enjoy media and entertainment wherever they are — via mobile apps, streaming subscriptions, and connected devices.

But all that convenience also created the login box.

Now, media companies must provide a frictionless login experience in addition to creating content and increasingly personalized experiences. Growing audience means meeting (and exceeding) customer expectations — often growing that audience one person at a time by marketing on a one-to-one basis. And all of this has to take place while minimizing data breach risks that might compromise sensitive user information.

With so much to achieve, where should media companies begin? We asked one of our Nordic partners, Tomi Ruotimo, CEO of Houston Inc. Consulting for his perspective.

Headshot of Tomi Ruotimo, CEO of Houston Inc.

Tomi founded Houston in 2003 with the vision to help companies design and build digital services to solve specific business problems. Fifteen years later, Houston has 100  employees and have helped companies like Finnish media giant Alma Media, Finnair and Konecranes digitise their offerings. Working with Houston and Auth0, Alma Media achieved 30% total savings by providing seamless access across their brands.

Why is identity important in the Nordics?

The European Commission ranks Denmark, Sweden, and Finland as the EU's most advanced digital economies, with the highest levels of digitization. According to Reuters, the region also leads the world in paying for online news.

Working with large, multi-brand media companies, we know identity can seem incredibly complex. It's about choosing the right solution for the use case, and giving Nordic media companies a clear roadmap toward turning their free users into paying subscribers.

What is your answer to "where do I begin with identity management?"

The answer is always: with a good user experience. Your login box is the gateway, and making it as easy as possible for people to sign in is the first step toward conversion. In the case of multi-brand media companies, users should also be able to securely switch between brands or services without having to sign in a second time.

From a technical point of view, the most difficult challenge is merging customer information from different brands and login types into one customer profile. For this, you need verified emails. The right identity provider can walk you through this process and make identifying single customers much quicker.

Then on the front-end, it's all about reducing friction for the user. Consider Single Sign On (SSO) across brands and features like social login to simplify registrations and logins for end users.

What about media companies looking for identity management beyond the basics?

Identity is a great tool for learning about your users, while also complying with data privacy and security laws like GDPR. The key is first-party data, collected directly from the user, with their consent. This doesn't mean companies should ask for a user's life story right away. Customers are turned off by a long sign up form: 86% of users will quit at registration if the form is too long, while reducing form fields from 11 to 4 increases conversion rates by 120%.

We often recommend "Progressive Profiling," an identity feature that allows media companies to collect information over time, as users interact with their platform. The first time a user signs in, you might just ask for their name and email. The second time, you could ask for their location to improve the experience. The third time could be topics of interest, etc. Ultimately, your goal is to get high-quality information from your users without pushing them away so you can personalize their experience.

How can media companies use the customer data they've collected?

Along with our partners like Auth0, we typically recommend that media companies integrate their identity solution with marketing or analytics platforms, so they can deliver personalized messages, content, discounts, etc.

Media companies can also use identity data to identify frequent users, and offer them a premium experience or simply message them in a different way. In a similar way, media companies that appeal to a wide demographic can tailor their experiences for different audiences, and make sure they're collecting the appropriate data for each age group. People will want to use your service more if you provide the right content. Netflix and Amazon do this well.

What advice do you have for media companies investing in identity?

Look at your business needs, and ask: should I build my own identity platform, or invest in a ready-made product? Auth0 has a good resource with 20 questions for Build or Buy. There is always opportunity cost to committing your own resources to identity management. If you choose to buy, find a partner who understands your business and processes, and can validate the right approach to the service, both at the technical level and in the user experience.

The bottom line: if turning free users into subscribers, and monetizing interactions with those subscribers is the goal, then identity is step one.

About Steven Rees-Pullman

Steven Rees-Pullman is General Manager of Auth0, a leading Identity-as-a-Service platform that secures more than 2.5 billion logins per month. More information can be found at

About Tomi Ruotimo

Tomi Ruotimo CEO and Founder of Houston Inc. Tomi is an innovative idealist, disruptive thinker, but also known as "enfant terrible of business". He has over 30 years experience in IT. He has founded Houston Inc. which, alongside with a sibling organization called Houston Analytics are one of the leading IoT software consultancy organizations in Scandinavia.

About Auth0

Auth0 by Okta takes a modern approach to customer identity and enables organizations to provide secure access to any application, for any user. Auth0 is a highly customizable platform that is as simple as development teams want, and as flexible as they need. Safeguarding billions of login transactions each month, Auth0 delivers convenience, privacy, and security so customers can focus on innovation. For more information, visit

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