This one feels like it’s been a long time coming. Almost every time we spoke about The Athletic and the NYT over the past few years I’ve wondered about the extent to which it was purely a play for subscriber numbers, ARPU be damned. And it looks as though some publishers are now actively reprioritising the audiences they do have rather than heavily discounting to attract new ones at any cost:
The Washington Post’s chief subscriptions officer, Michael Ribero, said he expects recalibration. As the bar for attracting and retaining paying subscribers gets higher, publishers will need to ‘focus on the customers and products with the highest return on investment’. Publishers with robust data and a close understanding of their existing subscriber bases will be best positioned to ‘make better choices for a sustainable future’ as the year unfolds, he added.
Increasing your subscriber total is great! But it is also potentially a new vanity metric, and one that is not a true indication of how healthy a publishers’ underlying business is. I’m betting that by the end of this year we’ll be hearing a lot more about retention and paid subscriber numbers – and not just the overall number of people with a log-in to publishers’ sites.
Consolidation gonna consolidate. What’s fascinating about the potential purchase of The Washington Post by Mike Bloomberg is quite how big an entity in financial journalism it would create. The article notes that it would leave the FT – still the archetype of financial news publications – in the dust. It does also point out, however, that all the speculation might have been caused by one of Bloomberg’s mates chatting nonsense. Wait and see.
Further job cuts across the newspaper industry. It’s the same old story. What’s especially depressing about the news that regional publisher Reach is set to cut hundreds of staff is that only last year it announced a recruitment drive. Even worse – it’s having to do so due to a 60% increase in the cost of newsprint and a weaker than expected advertising market over the Christmas period.
Here’s a fun and well-argued piece from friend of the podcast Charlotte Henry. We know that streaming services are no longer the absolute dead certs they once were, as we’ve seen from Netflix’s wobbles. However, Charlotte’s point (which builds upon her arguments in our broadcast special last year) is that Apple TV+ has quietly built up enough quality content to make it worth the while of Netflix-cutters looking for another TV fix.
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