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What Does a Successful Newspaper Subscription Model Look Like in 2018?

Updated: Mar 16

Newspapers are now worth $18 billion in ad revenue. Seem like a lot? This number is only a third of what it once was a decade ago. With the newspaper industry changing rapidly, old methods are being replaced with new models at high speed. We’ve compiled some helpful strategies that you can implement to keep ahead of the curve in 2018 to have a healthy, robust, and profitable newspaper subscription model.

Metered Paywall

Metered paywalls are becoming the most popular newspaper subscription model in the US. A study conducted in 2015 which focused on newspapers with circulations of over 50 thousand found that metered paywalls are used more than hard paywalls and freemium models combined.

The study, conducted by a research fellow at the American Press Institute (API), found that metered paywalls were used by 62 of the 98 respondents. If done right, metered paywalls offer many benefits from giving readers the opportunity to see if they like your content to allowing readers to share articles on social media. Make sure to test which subscription offers work best for your audience once they have hit the paywall.

According to the American Press Institute, the median price for a weekly digital newspaper subscription is $2.31 USD. This is equivalent to $10 USD monthly and $120 USD a year. Having a subscription platform that easily allows you to A/B test which subscription offers you should present is key to winning your reader revenue strategy as you’ll want to make sure you get the most for your subscriptions while not driving away readership.

Discounted trial subscriptions vs. free trial subscriptions

Yet another study conducted by the American Press Institute found that discounted trial subscriptions actually led to higher conversion rates than free trial subscriptions. This may in part be due to the fact that discounted subscriptions still require payment information which can then roll over into automatic renewals. Out of the 11 organizations who had tried free trial subscriptions they all without exception found conversion rates under 25%. On the other hand, 10 out of the 14 respondents who had offered a discounted trial subscription said they saw over 76% conversion rates.

The addition of perks

Publishers are also now including the addition of perks for their paying subscribers. By including perks, you incentivize readers to subscribe for insider access. At the same time, it also rewards current subscribers and builds brand loyalty. Some perks that newspapers are including, according to the API:

  1. Commenting access

  2. Subscription sharing

  3. Fewer advertisements

  4. Improved browsing experiences

  5. Monthly e-cookbooks

  6. Access to other statewide digital editions

  7. Rewards programs

The addition of perks for your newspaper can be a great way to create a sense of community. You can also mix it up by including different “levels” of perks with the most expensive package being the most exclusive.


You may also want to consider partnering your newspaper and other newspapers or services to then offer a bundle price. Two newspapers that are doing this in 2018 are the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The Washington Post has partnered with Hulu to offer a year of unlimited digital subscription access combined with Hulu access for $99 USD a year. The New York Times is offering a year of digital subscription access combined with Spotify Premium for $203.88 USD a year.

What to take away

The thought of choosing a subscription model may at first seem daunting, but the good news is there are many creative ways of approaching your reader revenue strategy. And you don’t have to choose just one. Testing which models work and which don’t and remaining flexible to adjust to the changing landscape will allow you to always keep up-to-date with what works for you and your audience.

If you’re considering implementing a subscription model for your company contact us and learn how you can grow your reader revenue.

What method are you going to use for your subscription model? Let us know down below.


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