Recently, the Reuters Institute published its latest Digital News Report for 2023. As in past years, it provides not only an informative overview of the state of the news industry today, but also offers vital statistics and facts about consumer attitudes towards the consumption of digital content, and their willingness to pay for it.
We’re going to see any number of summaries of this report in the coming days/weeks from all sides of the field, as industry experts look at and interpret the data through their own lenses.
Here are the three interesting things I see when I look at the report.
#1: Winner Takes it All Is Great for ABBA — Not for Publishing
Reuters’ latest data once again proves that people don’t want multiple subscriptions to news, confirming that subscription fatigue is real.
The overwhelming majority of consumers elsewhere in the world continue to only pay for one subscription, with a few exceptions. Reuters suggests that a ‘winner takes most’ dynamic persists across the market, whereby publishers are all competing for the single subscription dollars that consumers are willing to spend.
What this tells me: If people have a subscription with one news publication, they won’t subscribe to any of the other sources that they visit. “For me to win, you have to lose” is not a sustainable option for the industry.
#2: Subscription Nomads Take Their Wallets and Migrate
Reuters found that many potential readers, especially younger people, do not want to be ‘tied down’ by one subscription. Rather, they want to access multiple brands, with little or no friction, for a fair price.
Reuters found that, on average, 23% of news subscribers said that they had canceled at least one of their ongoing news publications, while a similar number (23%) negotiated a cheaper price, and others took up new subscriptions only using a cheap trial offer.
What this tells me: With streaming subscriptions, people juggle trials and special offers to reduce outgoings — they become Subscription Nomads and migrate (also with their wallets) between different services. Consumers aren’t using the subscription enough to justify the cost, and churn will likely remain a major problem moving forward.
#3: Elon Musk Is Right, and Social Media the Kingmaker
Elon Musk was on the right track when he announced that Twitter would enable consumers to purchase just the articles they want to read, directly on the platform rather than being forced to subscribe to a publication. Reuters’ data shows this was a smart move.
Why? Because only around a fifth of respondents (22%) said that they start to access news content on the publication’s website or app — that’s down 10 percentage points since 2018. Instead, a higher number (30%) prefer to access news via alternative routes such as social media.
What this tells me: With direct access to news apps and websites becoming less important, and social media becoming more important for access to news due to their ubiquity and convenience, the ability to purchase individual articles on platforms like Twitter will only become more significant.
These lessons only serve to reinforce that consumers just want to enjoy as much content as they can, preferably on their own terms (which for 98% decidedly does NOT include subscribing). This is why now, more than ever, the Internet needs a user-centric model that allows users to choose how they will consume content and — equally important — how they will pay for it.
Which is why we created Supertab. Those publishers who start engaging with Twitter, and companies like Supertab, to drive engagement in a user-centric way will ultimately be the ones to gain market share, generate revenues, and win people’s hearts (and wallets).
Cosmin Ene (@cosmoene)
Cosmin Ene has a wide spectrum of experience in monetization for content providers. For the last 8+ years he has worked with a broad swathe of publishers – from bloggers to local media to national and international publications – including the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, The Boston Globe, and Der Spiegel. Cosmin also has profound experience generating revenues from contributions for content creators and artists, having worked together with industry luminaries like Nick Knight. Recognizing that people’s digital content consumption habits have fundamentally transformed traditional business models, he advises publishers and content providers on how best to embrace user-centricity in order to remain profitable and to succeed in the 21st century.