Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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Digital subscriptions offer poor value for money, research finds

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Research by Sesamy shows that 50% of UK respondents have cancelled a digital newspaper or magazine subscription in the last 12 months. Could single article purchases be the solution?

In a poll of 1,000 individuals across the UK, results show that 64% of UK respondents do not have a subscription to any digital newspapers or magazines, with 31% of those citing their reason being that such subscriptions are too expensive and not good value for money.

The findings form part of a wider research project which polled 1,000 people in the UK and 600 in Sweden on subscriptions habits. Undertaken by Sesamy – the digital content platform from the founders of Acast – the research also uncovered that 50% of UK respondents had cancelled a digital newspaper or magazine subscription in the last 12 months.

Other key findings include:

  • 78% of respondents (64% in the UK and 92% in Sweden) answered that they have
    wanted to read an online article in the past, but couldn’t because it was locked or behind a subscription wall.
  • When asked what they typically do in those situations, 41% said that they simply leave the site and accept that they cannot read that article, while 35% will find a different source with a similar article for free.
  • 39% (30% in the UK and 48% in Sweden) would likely purchase a single article if the option existed.

Sesamy says it has already proven the success of the single-purchase model, having secured partnerships with leading Swedish publications Breakit, Kvartal and Nyheter24. Karl Rosander, Chairman and co-founder of Sesamy, says, “Publishers are doing themselves a disservice by not offering a single-purchase alternative, and consumers are seeking alternative sources for articles they would likely be happy to pay for if the option existed.”

We want to create a world where subscriptions are only purchased if they make sense for the individual based on their needs.

Having the option to only purchase content that the consumer actually wants, when they want it, is the most obvious and logical evolution of the publisher market.

Måns Ulvestam, CEO and Co-Founder, Sesamy

The research adds to mixed signals about consumers’ willingness to pay for subscriptions. Score Media, which markets more than 420 regional daily newspaper titles throughout Germany, recently released its own subscription research which found that ‘willingness to pay for media subscriptions is increasing‘.

People in Germany are increasingly paying to use media. Whether for online news, newspapers or magazines, video streaming or audio offers: 84 percent of households have at least one paid media subscription, on average seven subscriptions are used in each household and each household has its media subscriptions cost an average of 41 euros per month.

Score Media Subscriptions Research

Industry reaction

Madeleine White, Head of International at Poool – the all-in-one audience conversion, management & retention platform – says, “The research highlights that not all news site visitors are created equal. A variety of other research has proven that we haven’t reached peak subscriptions and that publishers are still succeeding in their digital reader revenue models, so the key is in maximising the potential value of each individual user, whether they’re likely to subscribe or not.”

“The best solution to achieve this? One word: registration. The act of converting anonymous users into known, logged, free members.”

Logged users are highly more engaged than anonymous readers – they come back more frequently, consume more content, stay for longer and interact thanks to the features they now have access to as a member, such as being able to access more content, save content for later and share their opinion through commenting. 

This engagement increases revenue from advertising, thanks to targeting and more eyes on page, which means you monetise your users even if they never pay to subscribe.

Madeleine White, Head of International, Poool