Everything is a learning moment. The longer I live the more certain I am of that. And the pandemic has been absolutely loaded with these moments, both personally and professionally.
Take subscription strategies, for example. While most publishers went into 2020 realizing that ad revenues would be down this year, they had little idea just how important subscriptions would quickly become.
“According to Zuora’s latest Subscription Impact Report, in comparison with the previous 12 months, subscriptions in Digital News & Media grew by 110% between March to May 2020, although that rate is slowing,” writes Damian Radcliffe in What’s New in Publishing. This was the second-fastest subscription segment behind OTT Video Streaming.”
And it’s not just digital news that is racking up subscribers; we know print magazines saw robust subscription boosts this spring, as lifestyle spending spiked. Meanwhile, many news publishers lifted the paywall on pandemic-related news. Risky? Maybe, but at Wired they’re already seeing the payoff in the form of “significant subscriber growth.”
This comes at a time when consumers have become accustomed to subscribing to the things they value, be that Netflix, Amazon Prime, even food deliveries. So why shouldn’t publishers look to the same model to deliver valuable journalism content?
As Radcliffe explains, “ … although many people have less money in their pockets, Deloitte’s data shows that consumers are busy adding new subscriptions (often taking advantage of trial pricing and ad-supported services), canceling old ones, and also trying out new services.”
This idea does come with a potential drawback, he notes – because subscriptions are so easy to change, keeping those subscribers is a bit more of a challenge than it used to be when the print title showed up in the mailbox.
“Digital and print media companies wondering how best to keep new subscribers who signed up during the pandemic will need to prove to readers that their publication is invaluable after the crisis,” writes AdWeek’s Sara Jerde, the article notes.
“Reducing churn, developing strategies for building loyalty, and generating recurring income from subscribers, is essential if an ‘audience first’ approach is your new revenue model,” Radcliffe writes.
It’s been a lesson in fast motion for the magazine and new media industry, and one well worth learning.