Digital subscriptions: the new promise of profitability

For the mass media, 2019 stands out as the year for transforming their business models. Digital subscriptions are emerging as the most effective option for generating new income

Media companies are increasingly turning to digital subscriptions as their main business model.

This is a consequence of digital advertising no longer being the main source of income after Facebook and Google burst onto the digital scene and accounted for a very high percentage of users and, as a result, most of the investment in advertising.

Faced with this situation, media companies can no longer just concentrate on making digital audiences grow in order to sell them advertising space; they must also attract them so that they become frequent readers and potential subscribers.

Having understood that digital subscriptions may be a sustainable source of income, the news industry has tried to respond with a viable strategy to increase the profitability of this model.

Which is why on 29 March WAN-IFRA has organised in Paris the event entitled “Digital subscriptions and monetisation of news content,” in order to share ideas and experiences concerning the attraction, conversion, monetisation and loyalty of the digital subscriber. Case studies and the opinions of experts on successful strategies and techniques for monetising online content will also be scrutinised.

Question of loyalty

The news industry has various sides to it. On the one hand, the now well-known concept of “totally free” content which affects the possibilities of success of the pay-for models.

And, on the other, the proliferation of so-called fake news which confuses the audience and takes up their time, for which they have played a very important role when considering alternatives that promote quality content.

One example of note is that of Scandinavian countries, which are among those with the best levels of newspaper subscriptions. For example, in countries like Sweden, about 30% of all Internet users subscribe to digital news content directly or through a combined print/digital subscription.

As Martin Jönsson, Head of Editorial Development at the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, put it in an article published in the portal

“If we are able to establish a business model for quality journalism in a digital market that is being constantly transformed, this is because we are able to understand better the needs of our readers and provide them with the type of journalism and services that involve them and give rise to greater loyalty. And, to achieve this end, we have to change fundamentally most things in our organisations”

This idea is taking root among an audience that wants valuable and trustworthy information. People are prepared to pay for something which provides them with a benefit or an advantage.

The mass media are trying to define and propose this offer of value that gives them faithful users and potential subscribers.

Technology and good practices

Protecmedia’s solutions for monetisation allow the news company to define freely its business strategy, covering traditional paywall models like hard and soft as well as more dynamic types of payment, such as freemium and hybrids.

In addition, our technology involves newsrooms in the challenge of monetisation, changing them from being solely production centres to profit-making centres: journalists with knowledge of the audience, laboratories for the creation of premium content and the motor behind new formats, like podcasts and newsletters, aimed at encouraging loyalty.

As regards the management of subscriptions, the possibility exists of the news company handling in an integrated manner the relationship with its active or potential subscribers.

The most advanced technology is used to resolve matters such as: the contribution of data to marketing strategies; allowing users to customise their subscriptions in accordance with their preferences and the possibility of exchanging information between subscribers and advertisers to design much more effective advertising campaigns.

Nowadays, the media that have been able to reduce the churn rate of subscribers and improve their level of engagement underline the importance of understanding that although “content is king”, distribution and knowledge of your audience are keys for attracting and holding on to readers. A “holistic” vision of the monetisation strategy which makes it possible to exploit as much as possible the contribution of each area of the company is required. They are all in favour of monetizing and encouraging engagement.