How to Keep Growing Subscribers After the Pandemic: Publisher Strategies | What’s New in Publishing

The total digital subscription market will grow to $1.5 billion by 2025, from $650 billion currently, according to a report by subscription management solutions provider Lineup. The report predicts that subscriptions will remain in place after the pandemic. And while subscriber engagement issues will persist, subscriptions will continue to grow beyond the media model.

“Move forward at a healthy post-pandemic pace”

This is reflected in FIPP’s Global Digital Subscription Snapshot Q2 2022. post-pandemic rate.

This year, the industry felt that the global exit from lockdown could have led to a significant drop in subscriber numbers to publications, whereas so far this does not appear to be the case.

Q2 2022 Global Digital Subscription Overview

The FIPP report covers 121 individual titles with a global reach of 37.8 million subscriptions. Most of it belongs to The New York Times with 9.5 million subscribers. The publisher also increased its number of gross active subscriptions to 10.85 million, indicating its success in cross-selling brands and vertical brands to its core subscriber base.

Its recent wave of acquisitions, including Wordle and The Athletic, have bought The Times tens of millions of new users. CEO Meredith Kopit Levien reportedly said the company is off to a good start on its goal of reaching 15 million subscribers by the end of 2027.

Source: Global Digital Subscriptions Q2 2022 Overview

“Possibility to develop a strong and lasting relationship”

Although The Times’ success story is huge compared to other publishers, many continue to show impressive growth. These include regional players, as shown in the figure above.

Many titles featured in the Global Digital Subscription Snapshot report “have had tremendous success with hard paywall strategies, but a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for all publishers.”

French publisher Alternatives Economiques (AE) has successfully used newsletter walls to increase their paywall conversion rates by 40%. The strategy is to block content and ask readers to sign up for a weekly newsletter to get access to free articles. AE gained over 360,000 newsletter subscribers through this approach.

Newsletter walls allow for content discovery, increased engagement, and the opportunity to develop a strong, lasting relationship that supports their subscription conversion rate.

Q2 2022 Global Digital Subscription Overview

The Guardian, committed to remaining free for its online users, has announced that it will experiment with a paywall on its new app. The publisher has successfully used the membership model to generate revenue. Italian Il Post is another title that has succeeded without using a paywall. It uses the membership model and currently has over 50,000 paying members.

“Investing in accuracy, reliability, clarity”

Il Post’s success is attributed to its mission to explain things better than its peers. This made it stand out in the Italian market – which was, in a way, confusing for readers because there were no separate categories of tabloids and serious newspapers, founder Luca Sofri told Press Gazette .

What we were doing at the time was not, from our point of view, that innovative – it was just something you couldn’t find in Italy… investing in precision, reliability, clarity in explanation of things.

Luca Sofri, Founder, Il Post

Coincidentally, the strategy also helped the publisher attract young readers. “Our goal was not to reach young readers,” explains Sofri. “Our goal was to explain things better.

“But what’s happened is you’re explaining things better, and you’re putting things into context, and you’re telling stories [about what] happened in the last century and so on – young readers are most interested. They find there what they cannot find elsewhere.

News brands are increasingly relying on their journalistic qualities to try to win subscribers, according to INMA. Many publishers have changed the content of their subscription landing pages – 72% of the top 50 news brands now include content focused on their credentials and the importance of quality journalism.

“Other innovations in this field to come”

Other growth strategies used by publishers include expanding beyond their current readership/region. As the French newspaper Le Monde has launched an English site to reach its goal of 1 million subscribers by 2025.

The publisher expects to soon reach a ceiling of subscribers in France and is targeting the American market to continue its growth. Its English-language site attracted 1,000 new subscribers in its first week of launch and the company hopes to see that number rise to 30,000 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Hearst Newspapers is investing in a new data and product hub. It will be a central shared resource supporting the group’s 24 daily titles and 52 weekly titles, and will have more than 20 specialists in areas such as product, data and design.

The publisher ended 2021 with 300,000 digital-only subscribers — a 50% increase from the previous year — its most successful year ever for digital subscriber growth.

As we enter a new era in media and the “Cookiepocalypse” inches closer to becoming a reality, it’s obvious that the shift towards reader revenue has been smart, and we expect to see further innovation in this area to come.

James Hewes, President and CEO, FIPP


The full report can be downloaded from FIPP:
Q2 2022 Global Digital Subscription Overview