The need for newspaper publishers to include a digital revenue model is a given in the industry. But just how they are going about it varies wildly. Some publishers opt for paywalls for premium content, while others rely on display ads or marketing that reaches critical mass.
“Whether it’s business models, market conditions or audience profiles, there are a wide range of factors affecting how much of their revenue newspapers currently derive from digital,” writes Henry Taylor in The Media Briefing.
To get a better handle on where newspapers are in the process, Taylor and his team looked at four high-profile newspapers; Trinity Mirror, The Daily Mail, New York Times Co and Guardian.
“We’ve chosen these publications in part because they actually bother breaking out their print/digital split, but also because between them they are broadly representative of three very different approaches to modern news publishing,” Taylor explains.
Specifically, he notes:
- The NY Times offers three subscription models: print, unlimited digital; and NYT Now, a selection of top digital stories.
- Trinity Mirror doesn’t have a paywall, but it struggles with a global approach given a large proportion of its portfolio is regional
- The Guardian and the Daily Mail both have similar approaches – mass audience and mass display advertising
After duly diligent number crunching, it appears that print revenue continues to drive the lion’s share of revenue for each company, although some are seeing strong digital gains.
- NYT Co — 79.1% of its revenue still comes from print, but the two-pronged digital subscription approach seems to be paying off
- The Daily Mail — 7% of revenue overall comes from digital, as they still enjoy hefty print circulation
- Trinity Mirror — 3.5% is digital revenue, as they attempt to monetize their highly regional publishing model
One interesting finding is the Guardian; it appears to make 28.5% of its revenue from digital. But that number is deceiving, explains Taylor, noting that “wrapped up in that figure is a hefty slice of income from the Soulmates dating service.”
Taylor warns that this transition to a mixed revenue model is critical for survival for newspapers today.
“With declining digital and print ad rates and circulation drops, it’s not a pretty picture for these companies,” he writes.
Pretty or not, it does appear that people are willing to pay for premium, well-crafted content, whether in digital or printed format. And that is good news for newspapers.
It’s tempting for newspaper publishers to sit back and see what model works best before implementing it. Unfortunately, with declining print circulations, newspapers don’t have that luxury of time. There’s probably more than one way to crack this nut.