The covid pandemic has provided The Atlantic with a subscription windfall, raising its subscriber count from 370,000 to 650,000 since launching a paywall in September 2019. Digiday details how the magazine is working towards its goal of $50 million in consumer revenue by 2022.
“It turns out that the thing we like to do — which is really carefully-done, sweeping, ambitious stories — is the thing that the market wants.”
Paying for news remains far less popular than paying for other types of digital content. One of the reasons may be that many publishers have ignored which payment methods actually get used in the paywall, thus adding friction to the experience, writes What’s New in Publishing.
“Newspapers should take a page from technology start-ups and adopt frictionless payment systems. Anyone should be able to subscribe in a few seconds”.
The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's leading newspapers with 6M readers, use a suite of artificial intelligence tools to find and promote the content that can drive subscriptions/retain subscribers, to help editors understand what to do more of and what to do less of.
“Before Sophi [The AI tool], The Globe used all kinds of analytics tools which showed what the most popular content was. But none of them really answered the question that Sophi answers, which is: What is the most valuable content?”
TIME for Kids is launching a digital subscription giving at home-access to the same age-appropriate news and current event content that TIME for Kids offers in schools. The subscription will include digital access to new editions of TIME for Kids each week, as well as access to every issue of TIME for Kids that has been previously published in 2020.
“Since 1995, TIME for Kids has delivered current events from TIME news bureaus around the world to millions of students in elementary and middle school classrooms across the U.S.”
During the lockdown, the business news publisher relaxed its hard paywall. Instead of losing its paying readers, it hit its yearly subscriptions growth goal in just three months, following its three-step plan.
“To look at it simply, FT knows that its digital revenue is greater than its print, and that its reader revenue is greater than advertising. These are signs of moving in a healthy direction. News organisations must be able to zoom in on who their subscribers are.”
Newspapers should abandon a revenue model based solely on advertisements, as they face severe competition from Google and Facebook to attract ad dollars. Instead, they should strive to convert online visitors to paid subscribers by offering differentiated content, concludes researchers from the University of Michigan after having reviewed data from almost 30 million users.
“Specifically, the paywall policy changes Dhillon and Aral studied over a seven-month period resulted in a decline in content demand of 9.9%, which reduced total advertising revenue. But a 31% increase in subscriptions yielded positive net revenues of more than $230,000, which more than offset the lost advertising revenue.”
Pre-pandemic, The Economist had already shifted its subscription strategy from focusing on acquisition to more of a retention push. But the surge in subscribers during the coronavirus crisis created “a kind of urgency” to keep the newly acquired users, according to president Bob Cohn.
“Some of the new efforts have involved the creation of subscriber-only digital events (some 27,000 subscribers tuned in to watch a Bill Gates interview), increasing the price of its introductory offers and exclusive subscriber newsletters. The number of subscribers in The Economist’s “highly engaged” category increased 21% last year, Cohn said.”
Could bundled news subscriptions services such as Readly, Cafeyn or Apple News be a remedy for an industry beset by dwindling ad revenues, asks Press Gazette in a review where they cover the potential of such a service and the major players as of today.
“Bundling is a way of creating a product that appeals to a far greater audience than any particular product can on its own. The problem is finding a way to divide that £10 a month fairly between the various publishers. Whenever somebody new joins you are still dividing up the same pot.”