Media companies have not reached their subscriptions peak
Conference Blog | 12 March 2023
Many digital readers now understand that news cost money. And large news companies did a good job explaining that fact during the pandemic.
But what has happened since then?
Greg Piechota, researcher-in-residence at INMA and lead of the INMA Readers First Initiative, gave a presentation on the state of news subscriptions to attendees at the Media Subscriptions Summit in Stockholm last week, sharing his original research with attendees.
“The good news is we really know how to sell,” Piechota said. “We get a lot of subscribers. The bad news is that the churn is growing almost in the same rate.”
Right now a lot of news companies doing well in selling are asking themselves if they have reached a peak and churn should be the focus ahead. That is not the case, Piechota said.
“If you compare the share of consumers having a subscription on a print newspaper 20 years ago with the share having a digital subscription now, the difference is 70%,” Piechota said, explaining the industry probably is still far away from the peak.
Piechota doesn’t think the recession is going to affect subscriptions in any noticeable way, as news readers are a part of a privileged group and the cost for newspapers is too low to be problematic for them. As he sees it, the industry is in the middle of a growth spurt of news subscriptions:
“I think it’s important for us to teach the readers that news is one thing and journalism is something else. We have to explain that to the market, and we have to get the market to try us out. That is where we stand today.”
So how do medaia companies get the audiences to try us out?
There is a big difference between the fast growers and the slow growers coming to digital subscribers. Breaking news is a strong catalysator for subscriptions, Piechota said. What is happening is that big trademarks, established newspapers famous for being first and best on news, get a heavy wave of new readers when something staggering is happening in the world.
Lately these companies have been better about offering bold deals. When the wave is coming, readers are offered the chance to subscribe for a long time — three months or more — for a low price. This has shown to be a new and useful way.
“We used to think in an old-fashioned way that we have to engage people, we have to let them get to know us, they have to read something, come back and read again and so on. And then, finally, they might subscribe,” Piechota said.
“But this is different. Ukraine is happening, readers are coming, we say stop! Pay! We are actually doing something that is very expensive here, but just today you can have three month for only US$1 dollar.”
The INMA Media Subscriptions Summit is March 6-10. Details can be found here.