Publications Continue Their Move Toward Digital Subscriptions

Publications Continue Their Move Toward Digital Subscriptions

In an attempt to diversify their revenue streams and focus on recurring revenue over IO-based advertising deals, newspapers look to build a sustainable business with digital subscriptions. To this end, a key goal is to convert as many website visitors as possible into paying subscribers.

According to a recent study published by the subscription analytics and yield management company Mather Economics, average subscription prices have increased approximately 400% in the past 15 years and digital-only prices have shot up 9% during the pandemic. Mather recommends that digital publishers pay attention to subscription starts per million rather than unique visitors. A good baseline median is 400 new subscribers per million unique visitors, whereas 600 would be considered “best in class” according to their benchmarks, although this can vary as different publishers will mature at different rates and saturation levels.

The report explains that the saturation rate is defined as the percentage of its online audience that it can expect to subscribe to digital-only products. For instance, The New York Times has converted approximately 5% of its average monthly unique visitors based on publicly available data. Regional newspapers average about 1.5% of their digital audiences based on data from Listener, but they continue to grow this percentage over time and don’t appear to have hit their saturation levels.

Increasing the equilibrium level of digital subscriptions can be achieved by expanding the reach of a publisher’s content or by raising the saturation rate through product innovation and development,” Mather said. “Churn is also a factor, but it will primarily affect the speed a publisher reaches saturation.”

This study aligns with the frequency that Leverage Lab sees digital subscription as a prioritized first-party data use case with its media and publishing clients. Simply being able to identify site traffic as nonsubscribers on the fly is an incredibly useful tactic to increase volume to user journeys that drive digital subscriptions. The possibilities are endless, and in a world that is on the brink of third-party cookie loss, it is a welcomed approach.

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