Subscribers During the Covid-19 Crisis

How Publishers Are Increasing Subscribers During the Covid-19 Crisis

How are some digital publishers increasing subscribers during the Covid-19 crisis? Here’s what you should know.

This year has been a true test for the publishing industry, with digital-first companies facing a great deal of uncertainty. A new report paints an optimistic outlook, though, particularly for publishers with subscription programs. Research show that most publishers have seen an increase in subscribers during the Covid-19 crisis

Six months into a pandemic that’s wreaked havoc on the country, some publishers are expanding their businesses and even launching new online titles. While this may seem like a risky bet for growing publishers, and especially those that don’t have a long track record, the data on publisher growth in 2020 paints a rosier picture.

In a new report, FIPP found that digital subscriptions and paywalls are becoming the primary revenue driver for many publishers. This is true across the board, regardless of publication type, audience, or location.

Let’s look at a few success stories:

  • The New York Times is reporting 14% quarterly growth, reaching 5.7 million digital subscribers overall in the midst of the global pandemic.
  • The UK-based journalism outlet Tortoise, home of “slow” news,” has seen 110% growth.
  • Dow Jones has seen a similar increase in subscribers during the Covid-19 crisis, with digital subscriptions now accounting for 67% of all subscription revenue.
  • The Atlantic has reached 500,000 digital subscriptions.
  • The Athletic has seen 66.7% growth.

How are these publishers managing to increase subscribers during the Covid-19 crisis? FIPP’s report lays out a few of their strategies.

Metering > Paywall

FIPP found that publishers have had success switching from a metering model to a premium model during the pandemic. As a reminder, the metering model is where readers are given access to a certain number of articles each month before a paywall goes up. The theory behind this strategy is that publishers are giving readers a taste of their content, and that readers will be more likely to pay for subscriptions once they have that taste and it’s been taken away.

During the pandemic, media businesses have discovered that a premium subscription model is more effective for driving new growth than a metering model. Rather than letting an algorithm decide when a reader has reached his or her monthly limit, the premium model puts more control in the hands of the publisher’s editorial staff. That staff has the ability to put “premium” stories behind a paywall, while leaving lesser stories free for any readers to consume.

Content Marketing

Another key change has to do with how publishers are marketing their digital subscription programs in 2020. FIPP found that many publishers are refocusing their marketing efforts on content marketing and keeping a close eye on analytics to determine which content actually converts. Publishers are taking their highest-performing content and use it in trial offers meant to encourage new readers to convert.

Google Analytics

Relying more on testing is something that a lot of publishers are doing right now. Leaning heavily on Google Analytics and similar platforms, publishers are watching which content converts and then finding new ways to monetize those specific pieces of content.

Sophisticated Software

Publishers who already had successful subscription programs prior to 2020 are investing more heavily in sophisticated software. Marketing automation and audience segmentation tools can help publishers decrease churn and generate even more revenue from their existing audiences. Using data to personalize reader experiences is a trend that is expected to continue through 2020 and well into the future.

Some publishers have reported a decline in advertising during the pandemic. Research from Zenith shows a global advertising decrease of 9.1% this year. That’s leading publishers to consider adopting their own subscription programs, even if they were not interested in this approach previously.

If you would like to learn more about how to create and implement a subscription program at your publication, contact Web Publisher PRO today.