Subscription Success

Are Younger Readers the Secret to Subscription Success?

Traditional newspapers have long been known for having older audiences, but new research is showing that younger readers might actually be the secret to long-term subscription success.

In a recent survey published by the World Association of News Publishers, 23.4% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 said they are “ready to pay” for a subscription to an online news website.

What’s holding them back? It could be price.

When asked what they would pay for an online news website, the average price cited was roughly $7 per month. That’s quite a bit lower than the average digital news subscription price cited in Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s latest study, which was roughly $16 per month.

It’s no surprise that the cost that younger readers say they are willing to pay for a monthly news subscription is nearly identical to the cost of a Netflix or Spotify subscription. Consumers in this demographic have been primed to embrace monthly subscriptions, having grown accustomed to paying monthly fees for everything from on-demand movies to makeup (Birchbox) and clothing (Trunk Club, Stitch Fix, etc.).

Having a lower monthly fee does play a role in subscription success, but that doesn’t mean digital publishers should start rushing to lower their prices just yet. Nearly half of respondents in the World Association of News Publishers’ survey said they would consider paying for an online news subscription when their income level increased. As this generation works its way through the ranks in the business world, subscription rates will likely rise. It makes sense, then, that digital publishers who focus their efforts on capturing younger readers now are setting themselves up for subscription success in the future, as well.

Price is also an indicator of quality to younger readers. Free content can sometimes be seen as less reliable or trustworthy than content that’s locked away behind a paywall. Younger readers who perceive that a publication produces higher quality journalism than another publication are more willing to pay for the information, even when that information is the exact same. That’s great news for publishers, and it’s something to keep an eye on when developing a subscription strategy.

Rather than lowering their prices, digital publishers should consider adding new types of content. Those sorts of value-adds are very popular among younger readers, and they can be one of the keys to subscription success.

A few types of content that publishers can add to their lineup include:

  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Games
  • VIP newsletters
  • Interactive content

Surveys show that younger readers care just as much about the way content is presented as they do the content itself. Younger readers want formats that are attractive and easy to digest. Longform content is great for establishing your publication as a journalism powerhouse, but it might not do very much to bring in younger readers. Readers in the Millennial and Gen Z demographics have indicated a preference for things like virtual reality, chatbots, and messaging. Publishers that want to cement their position and guarantee subscription success in the years ahead will need to invest in these technologies to keep their audiences hooked.

Looking into the future is something that every publisher should be doing right now. How do you plan to keep your audience growing? How will you keep existing subscribers engaged? When the goal is profitability, it’s important to always be providing subscribers with value. That’s the only way to grow a business.

Key Takeaways

  • Younger readers aren’t coming on their own. Publishers need to put in the work to produce high-quality journalism that readers are willing to pay for.
  • Young readers value convenience, so keep that desire in mind when developing your website and other online properties.
  • A primary goal for every publisher in 2021 should be to develop a high-value brand that engages young readers. This can be done by producing great content and launching strong marketing campaigns.
  • Young audiences are most willing to pay for subscriptions to publications focused on science and technology, followed by business and economics.

If you’re interested in learning more about the secrets to subscription success, read How to Make Subscribers Feel Like VIPs.