- Lots of news publishers are looking to digital subscriptions to supplement their ad revenue.
- A new survey for Business Insider by Dynata found most subscribers pay for one or two subscriptions and most of them are subscribing to just three papers.
- That suggests it will be hard for other publishers to make significant inroads in the market.
Ad revenue alone won’t pay the bills, so lots of publishers are jumping on the subscription bandwagon.
New York Media, Condé Nast, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, and yes, Business Insider, are just a sampling of the publishers that have erected paywalls or reader revenue programs in the last year, or announced they are planning to.
It’s easy to look at the success of The New York Times and be hopeful about the prospects for reader-paid online journalism. It recently hit 4.3 million subscriptions in print and digital and thinks it can get to 10 million by 2025.
But it’ll be hard for others to replicate that success, as few have the caliber and breadth of journalism and editorial resources that the Times does.
A survey by Dynata, formerly Critical Mix, for Business Insider found that three publications hog most of the online news subscriptions: The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.
The email survey was conducted in February using an online survey panel and had a 95% confidence level. The survey had 1,000 participants. Of those, 28% said they pay for an online news subscription, close to half of which said they subscribe to the Times. That 28% is higher than other surveys show, but Dynata said its survey is balanced to account for the national population.
This chart shows the breakdown of subscriptions among those who subscribe to an online publication.
After the Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, the rest of the publications had under 15% of people surveyed saying they were subscribers.
Most of the respondents who have subscriptions reported they subscribe to just one or two publications.
Those who subscribe to multiple publications tend to be higher earners. Among those who subscribe to any online publication, 25% are in the $100,000 a year and up income bracket. But when you look at those who subscribe to five publications, 28% are in that high income bracket.
Most of those surveyed considered online news subscriptions to be fair or better for the value they were getting.
Fully 93% said they were at least somewhat likely to renew their subscriptions. Those who were most likely to renew also were higher-income.
The more subscriptions people had, the more likely they were to renew.
Subscriptions are a ‚winner-take-all affair‘
Subscriptions are a winner-take-all affair, said Nic Newman, a senior research associate at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which also has surveyed people on their willingness to pay for online news.
“Three have left little room for others in terms of top-end subs,” Newman said. “If we assume that people stick with a provider, and that most people have one or two subs, then it is going to be very hard for new players to get a share of this market.”
Also, the fact that people with multiple subscriptions tend to be better off means publications that are fishing for new customers have a smaller pool to fish in.
It should be noted that the Times, with its 1,600-person newsroom, is an outlier, and not all publications need Times-like subscription numbers to have a meaningful subs business.
Here are some other findings of note:
- Men were significantly more likely than women to be subscribers to any online publications (35% vs. 20%).
- Men also were significantly more likely to consume online news multiple times a day (38% vs. 23%).
- People 25-34 were the age group most likely to subscribe (37%), compared to 23% of people 45 to 54, and 15% age 55 to 64.
Source: business insider