After years of talk about bundles, several media offerings wrapped into one subscription,, being key to digital media’s future, the economic shocks of the past few weeks, have put the subject back in play.
Publishers have been experimenting with different kinds of bundles for years. In addition to large, Spotify-esque ventures such as Texture (now Apple News+), Readly or Inkl, which roll dozens of publications up into a single paid app, publishers have been seeking out one-on-one deals with complementary products.
Media owners with diversified revenue lines were best-positioned to weather the coronavirus crisis as it continued into the summer. While the advertising market plummeted, subscription businesses saw an uptick as consumers sought out original news and streaming content.
The macroeconomic environment is anything but predictable at the moment, but most media owners began reporting a rebound in revenue in July.
The nonprofit climate news site now has about 6,000 paying subscribers. The vast majority — 90 percent — of the site’s revenue though, still comes from foundations and major donors.
“[Grist is] not some techy blog that’s about how you decarbonize the energy sector — which by the way, is extremely important — but how we make that reach a broad audience and make it very public interest, and use a voice that’s kitchen table and accessible to a vast majority of Americans.”
The pandemic squeezed advertising for the web as well as print, but subscription growth was the best ever for a quarter. The newspaper is now on course to achieve its stated goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.
The company added 669,000 net new digital subscribers, making the second quarter its biggest ever for subscription growth. The Times has 6.5 million total subscriptions, a figure that includes 5.7 million digital-only subscriptions.
Cafeyn, a French streaming platform founded in 2006, has acquired Blendle, the Netherlands’ largest news platform, creating a combined offering of more than 2500 newspapers and magazines, serving 1.5 million active users across Europe. In Sweden, the market leader Readly is looking to go public.
The acquisition is part of Cafeyn’s strategy to become the undisputed European, if not global, leader in the information streaming space within the next five years.
News publishers have added their subscribe pages to the long list of things they constantly tinker with in an attempt to drive revenue during challenging times. Unlike conventional A/B tests, the new experiments are grounded in hypotheses built out of user insights, require input from many different stakeholders and take longer to evaluate.
While an audience team might be able to conclude which headline/image combination is more effective within a matter of minutes, it can take weeks, or even months, to figure out which subscribe page decision drove more conversions — and how many of those subscribers churned out.
New York Times print business is still “profitable seven days a week and across the United States without a single dollar of print advertising in it,” according to outgoing CEO Mark Thompson. In spite of this, he foresees a future where the print edition is folded, and New York Times becomes a digital-only newspaper.
“The peak time for digital consumption on a smartphone is 7:00 in the morning. Very early on, I went down to the newsroom of The New York Times at 7:00 in the morning, and it’s half a dozen guys with vacuums. The night shift has gone home, the day shift hasn’t arrived. Nothing is happening.”
As the world adjusts to life after lockdown, publishers will be looking at which areas of the business to focus on and which to put on ice over the coming months. Is a pivot back to magazine subscriptions a wise idea, or is this a trend which will fade as restrictions ease? In this analysis, Media Voices evaluates the likelihood of success for different magazines, and how to balance the growth in digital subscriptions with the rest of the business.
“Having a community aspect is vital. When strategising to build a thriving subscription base, publishers should also first scrutinise if there is a real potential to develop a sense of community among their audience before investing in that next step.”
The average number of digital readers per month for New York Times during the news intensive second quarter of 2020. Compared to the second quarter of 2019, the average number of digital readers has increased by 32 percent.