November 18, 2016 | Danielle Chatterton
2. Digital: An aide to print subscription
In general, print media needs to make up revenue somewhere and with the decline of print they must make it up where profits still exist; digital.
This explains why there is a resurgence and renewed focus on the E-Paper, because it adds value (perceived or real) to a subscription, improving retention. Digital editions appear to be very popular with premium audiences as they enable them to associate replica products with paying for content. So, lots of publishers are heavily marketing basic or more enhanced E-Paper solutions as added-value to subscriptions.
Newspaper publishers have realised this trend and are now starting to heavily invest in subscription models and adding value to their user experience and subscriber packages with e-paper, apps and premium content. Offering incentives so that the premium element drives people to use both print and online solutions. The reason for this appears to be that print customers are still most valuable.
Whilst travelling, one publisher told us they had been able to get 35% of print subscribers regularly using a digital product eg; app, e-paper or website. Brands like The Times, have really led the way in “adding-value” with Premier League & Rugby highlights, invites to exclusive events, small group sessions with journalists etc. Plus, they have the advantage of a long term paid strategy.
For publishers, it has become important to maximise their offering with digital and print subscription bundles and sign-ups. By charging a bit more for digital + print editions, you are increasing the odds that people will use both features. While most people probably read both editions, if the gap between paying for one or the other was massive, they’d probably choose just one. With digital being the future, they’d probably increasingly choose digital. This is why keeping the price gap between digital or print only and the combination package small is key.
A great example of this would be The Economist, who have made the decision to price their print and digital subscriptions the same £145 per year stand-alone & £179 for a combined subscription; sending the message it is perceived, that the digital edition is just as valuable, and just as worth paying for, as the print edition. It could actually be argued that the digital edition should be more expensive, because it has less advertising. Prices are not just a function of customer demand; they are also a function of advertiser demand.
Obviously adding value doesn’t have to just be the above suggestions. A daily US newspaper has found that traffic & weather play huge parts in the readers lives. Snow drifts, storms, tailbacks & roadworks impact city lives – so providing in-depth data, personalised updates & live video streams are proving very popular in an app or digital experience.
We have also spoken to a few publishers who have suggested they are migrating to a model where more generic content is free to view & monetised by advertising and implementing paywalls on both website and in-app, for more premium content. This way the print customer gets more added value for their subscription than a non-print customer in a bid to drive retention.
As the digital medium evolves & adds more value to the customer experience, the digital edition will one day be valued more than the print edition thus will be priced even higher.
Digital reading is the future, and there is no way of escaping this reality.