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Publishers “continue to go from strength to strength”: Highlights from FIPP’s Global Digital Subscription Snapshot Q3

Editors note: We are republishing an article by Faisal Kalim that looks into the latest report on digital subscriptions. This piece was originally published in What’s New in Publishing.

Digital-only subscriptions have grown by 14.6% to reach 35.8M, according to the Global Digital Subscription Snapshot 2021 Q3. The report published by FIPP in partnership with CeleraOne presents data from a wide range of publishing titles and streaming services. It shows significant growth across the digital subscriptions sector. 

Source: Global Digital Subscription Snapshot 2021 Q3

Digital publishing revenue in the UK across B2C and B2B markets was up 31.9% YoY in Q1 of 2021, according to a report by the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte. This growth is driven primarily by digital subscription revenue which was up 48% YoY. Overall, the value of subscription revenue for both B2C and B2B publishers had grown to £123M in total by the end of March 2021.

Good growth numbers scattered throughout

FIPP President and CEO James Hewes also notes promising signs of growth for magazine media. “While this latest quarterly edition of the FIPP CeleraOne Global Digital Subscription Snapshot doesn’t quite show it yet, we are seeing the point of light for magazine media growing larger and larger,” he writes in the introduction to the report. He points to the magazine brand, America’s Test Kitchen, a new entrant in the Snapshot, which now has more than half a million digital subscribers. 

News brands – and selected other brands – that have already taken the plunge, continue to go from strength to strength. Perennial leaders the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all continue to show strong growth. There are good growth numbers scattered throughout the report for other brands too.

James Hewes, President & CEO, FIPP

The top performers include The New York Times which added 455,000 new digital subscribers reaching 7.6M. The paper has 8.6M subscribers in all. It also reached the milestone of 1M subscribers outside the US and is on track to reach its goal of 10M subscribers by the end of 2025. 

And that’s not all, the publisher now has more than $1B in free cash flow which is being considered for investment in additional revenue streams. It has started offering subscriptions to some of its newsletters and is also working on a new audio and an iPad app. 

Source: Global Digital Subscription Snapshot 2021 Q3

Greatness in small details

In Europe, German publisher Axel Springer hit the 1M digital subscribers milestone. Digital revenues account for more than 50% of Axel Springer’s revenues in the news segment.

Experimentation is driving growth for many publishers. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail built an AI-driven paywall called Sophi. It can automate and optimize a number of important publishing decisions like curating the home page, promoting content on social media, and managing users according to their potential subscription/advertising revenue. Sophi has helped the publisher double its subscriber base to 170,000 and improved conversion rate by 50%. It has also been adopted by 11 different publishers across 50 outlets opening up a new revenue stream for The Globe.

The Guardian posted a net operating profit of £3.1M for 2020 despite Covid related impact on advertising revenue. The publisher which keeps its content free and primarily uses a membership model to raise revenue (it has 561,000 recurring contributors) is also seeing success with its subscription-based news app, the Daily. The app had attracted over 400,000 subscribers by July this year – a 46% increase in comparison to the previous year. The publisher aims to reach 2M subscribers and recurring contributors by 2022.

A culture of experimentation has helped Swedish publisher Expressen grow its digital subscription base from a cold start to 125,000 subscribers in just over two years. Small user experience changes, even as simple as restyling the subscribe button have helped it double conversion rates on subscriptions.

In our cross-functional team where marketing, tech, editorial, and analytics were all represented, we expected we needed to take great strides and make big changes to see results. Instead, we found greatness in small details.

Helena Sund, Editor, Expressen premium

photo by geraltat pixabay

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