80% of publishers are banking on subscriptions and memberships in 2023
The majority of publishers plan to focus on generating revenues from subscriptions and memberships, according to the latest report from Reuters Institute. It examines key challenges (news avoidance), trends (audio/visual journalism), and opportunities (vastly improved AI tools).
Subscriptions and memberships will be the most important revenue priorities for 80% of publishers in 2023, according to the Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023 report by Reuters Institute. The report authored by Senior Research Associate Nic Newman is based on a survey of 303 media executives from 53 countries.
68% expect growth in subscriptions
44% of the publishers are confident about their business prospects in the year ahead, while 37% are uncertain. “Despite the squeeze on consumer spending, 68% still expect some growth in subscription and other paid content income this year,” the report adds. The Times of London added 70,000 subscribers in the last year and the New York Times saw subscription revenues increase by more than 10%.
Publishers will be more focused on retaining existing subscribers, than adding new ones, according to the report. Those who are already running subscription operations for some time will have the advantage of a secure base.
News organizations that have not yet fully embraced digital will be at a severe disadvantage. The next few years will not be defined by how fast we adopt digital, but by how we transform our digital content to meet rapidly changing audience expectations.Nic Newman, Author, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023
Although subscriptions are a top priority followed by display advertising, most publishers will be relying on multiple revenue streams. For example, The Guardian which is focused on donations also generates revenue through digital advertising, subscriptions on its app, events, and funding from platforms and foundations. The Financial Times combines subscriptions with display and native advertising. Additionally, it has built an events business and runs a consultancy that advises other media companies.
Publishers are increasingly making attempts to expand internationally. News UK targeted US audiences with the US Sun and doubled its traffic in the country last year. Britain’s biggest news publisher, Reach, plans to launch websites for the Mirror and Express in the US and has recruited around 100 new local journalists for the project. French daily Le Monde is also looking at acquiring English readers to double its subscriber base by 2025.
“Address the twin challenges of news avoidance and disconnection”
Most publishers (72%) are also worried about the growing trend of news avoidance. The most promising strategies to counter it, according to the survey respondents, are explanatory journalism (94%) and Q&A formats (87%). 73% are also banking on solutions journalism.
Research suggests that “audiences want journalists to continue to cover difficult stories and that they also want more inspiration, a broader agenda, and more fun,” notes Newman.
Could this be the year when publishers rethink their offer to address the twin challenges of news avoidance and disconnection – to offer more hope, inspiration, and utility?Nic Newman, Author, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023
“Best way to build a deeper connection with audiences”
Digitalization has bought with it a surfeit of formats and channels through which publishers can serve their audiences. They are increasingly backing audio and video formats. 72% say they will be focusing on podcasts and other digital audio, 69% on email newsletters, and 67% on digital video. This is also reflected in their intent to put more effort into platforms like TikTok (+63 net score), Instagram (+50) and YouTube (+47) compared to Facebook (-30) and Twitter (-28).
Tortoise Media has attracted significant numbers of new members after shifting its focus to newsletter and audio. Newman suggests that the unpredictability of social media has driven most publishers to invest in podcasts and newsletters “as the best way to build a deeper connection with audiences and to encourage them to come back more frequently.”
Subscription publishers consistently tell us that those that consume audio are amongst their most loyal customers and spend more time with their products.Nic Newman, Author, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023
“Biggest technological advances since the invention of the internet”
Most of the publishers surveyed are now routinely using artificial intelligence tools. Summaries, text-to-speech, and image recognition leading to automated tagging and subtitles are some of the popular uses of AI. It’s also being used to improve personalization and content recommendations. Canadian publisher Globe and Mail has built a suite of AI tools that can automate many critical tasks. The publisher has used it to automate most of its home pages and driven a 17% increase in click-through rates.
The biggest breakthrough in artificial intelligence is the arrival of ChatGPT, from OpenAI. “Some view ChatGPT as one of the biggest technological advances since the invention of the internet,” notes Newman. It is “part of a wider trend called ‘generative AI’ that enables computers to create not just words but also pictures, videos, and even virtual worlds from just a few text prompts.”
He expects to see more such tools being opened up to creators, journalists, and others this year. Existing tools like MidJourney and DALL-E are already being used to create illustrative art for articles and blog posts.
All this is likely to lead to an explosion of automated or semi-automated media in the next few years – for good or ill. It will be easier than ever to create ‘good looking’ and highly plausible multimedia content, but it will also be harder than ever to separate what is real from what is fake, misleading, or doctored.Nic Newman, Author, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023
“The next few years will be defined more by how we can transform our digital content into something that feels more relevant and more useful to different groups,” concludes Newman. “In this process, new technologies can be our ally in tailoring content more precisely to different audience needs.”
But at the same time, journalism will need to emphasize its human qualities and its track record of delivering trusted content if it is to stand out from the flood of automated and synthetic media that threatens to overwhelm internet audiences.Nic Newman, Author, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023
The full report can be downloaded from Reuters Institute:
Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023