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Subscription and Membership

The buzz around subscription as a model of redemption. Quite often the Grey Lady is cited. It is almost are bizarre as “look at NYT, if they can do it, we can do it.” Minus any attempt at either having a robust digital plan or great journalism. 

In an piece in Talking New Media titled NYT reveals “path forward” to doubling digital revenue, emphasizing reader revenue, the plan to get to $800 million revenue by 2020 involved the NYT: 

  1. Reach readers where they are
  2. International focus
  3. Move to other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  4. Skew younger

To accomplish this, the NYT tested pricing models, improving reading experience, and sell the value of the NYT.

While most organisation might voice similar platitudes, it is in the implementation that often found wanting. 

Circa 2021: The New York Times has “8.4 million subscriptions, of which 7.6 million are digital, putting it on track to hit its 10 million target by 2025,” the RISJ’s Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022 quotes an NYT document. 

The report says that subscription was the top-most priority for most commercial publishers. Advertising did not lag too behind in their scheme of things, but clearly native advertising wasn’t topping the list. The relentless pandemic leaves events quite a low priority, while funding from platforms on the list. 

Nic Newman does recognise that the “jury is still out on whether subscription models will work for.” Frederic Filloux in the 16 April, 2019 Monday Note says that there are two key elements of modern news economics: uniqueness and value proposition. The two elements therefore becoming important to implement a subscription model. The other elements essential are, according to Filloux, trust in the brand, perceived value versus pricing, and good customer care.

 While the business side of it is probably less relevant here, but we must explore how editorially news organisation can work on the uniqueness and value proposition propositions.