Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Four disabled journalists on how news outlets can support staffers and audience members with disabilities
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 22, 2023, 1:21 p.m.
Business Models
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   June 22, 2023

More than 80% of large news publishers offer readers promotional subscription prices (think “$1 for one month”) as a way to reel in subscribers who will, hopefully, stick around when the promotion is over. The prices of those trials have fallen by nearly 50%, according to new research from media company Toolkits.

Toolkits looked at the top 100 publishers that offer monthly or 4-week digital subscription products, comparing their promotional pricing between June 14, 2022, and June 13, 2023. The publications were selected based on website data from SimilarWeb.

Toolkits found that promotional pricing has decreased by 43.4% over the year. In June 2022, the average promotional price for a subscription was $0.076 per day ($2.28 for 30 days). This month, the average was $0.043 per day ($1.29 for 30 days).

Among the top 10 newspapers that offer promotional digital subscription pricing, the average promotional price decreased by 16% from June 2022 ($0.074 per day) to June 2023 ($0.062 per day). Those newspapers were The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, and in Michigan.

For the top 10 news publications (not just newspapers) with the largest audiences, the average promotional price increased by 26% over the course of the year. Those publications were The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNBC, USA Today, Insider, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and Newsweek.

The 10 news publications in the sample with the smallest audiences saw average promotional price decreases of 19.5%. All of those publications were local news outlets: The Orange County Register, Newsday, the Kansas City Star, the Indianapolis Star, the Tennessean, the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Charlotte Observer, the Columbus Dispatch, The Advocate in Louisiana, and the Wisconsin State Journal.

“Subscriptions offers change from one day to the next,” Toolkits co-founder Jack Marshall said. “They can vary based on a range of factors like location, device characteristics, [and] time of day.” But looking at 100 publishers gives a sense of the trend.

Some of the reasons why promotional prices have decreased, according to Toolkits:

  • A tumultuous economy: “Consumers and businesses alike are controlling their spending more closely, prompting publishers to lower the barriers to entry for their subscription offerings.”
  • Subscription business models are still in growth phases: “As consumers become more comfortable with the concept of paying for digital publications, many publishers are in land-grab mode as they attempt to maximize their market share and subscriber bases.”
  • Competition for customers’ attention: “Publishers are aware that consistent engagement is a prerequisite for building long-term subscriber relationships, making cheap — and long — introductory periods a necessity as consumers evaluate a growing array of options.”

According to the Reuters Institute 2023 Digital News Report, 21% of Americans have paid for a news subscription in the past year. Of those, 56% pay for two or more subscriptions. But only 38% of subscribers have consistently kept their subscriptions, while 25% paid for new ones and 25% canceled ones they had.

Other data points from Toolkits:

  • 66% offered discounted periods of 3 months or more.
  • The average promotional period was about 5 months (22 weeks).
  • The majority of publications offered paid trials (88%), while 12% made trials available for free.

Read the research here.

Show tags
Join the 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Four disabled journalists on how news outlets can support staffers and audience members with disabilities
“The tools that journalists are given [should be] accessible — and designed with people like me in an advisory role.”
Press freedom means controlling the language of AI
Generative AI systems act like “stochastic parrots,” using statistical models to guess word orders and pixel placements. That’s incompatible with a free press that commands its own words.
What is news, anyway? Readers’ answers depend on how much they see people like themselves in the story
“The disconnect many young people feel may come from a lack of representation, which we show violates a fundamental aspect of how audiences — teens and adults — define what is news.”