//Tuesday d. 9.01.18

Digital subscriptions are the future of the newspaper industry

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Written by Morten Suhr Hansen

The traditional news media – the newspaper industry – has been under pressure for many years.
The circulation is decreasing and the threat from new digital and social media has been visible and present for a long time. However, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. A new report published by the newspapers’ own international organisation, WAN-IFRA, shows that circulation number and turnover from digital subscriptions are growing rapidly.

The report, World Press Trends 2017, covers newspapers and news media from all over the world. And according to this report, the subscription revenue increased by 28% from 2015 to 2016, while it increased by a total of 300% in the period from 2012 to 2016. However, overall the total revenue for all newspapers decreased by 2% from 2015 to 2016.
A drop, which by the way was driven by a great decline in the paper-based subscription revenue. But without the digital subscription growth, the complete picture would obviously look a lot worse.

The development is of course positive for the industry that has been fighting to find the right business model in the digital world for years, and who fought against the conception of that digital news should be accessed without charge.

As a matter of fact, many newspapers and media now have more digital subscribers than traditional subscribers, who receive the newspaper at their doorstep. As an example, according to WAN-IFRA, The New York Times has now passed 1,6 million digital subscribers corresponding to 69% of the newspaper circulation being digital. Wall Street Journal has passed 1 million digital subscribers equivalent to 50% of the circulation, while the share of digital subscribers at Financial Times is now corresponding to 75% of the total circulation.

Admitted, it is easy to find the successes when you look among the greatest international newspaper brands with a global audience, but here in Denmark the digital circulation is beginning to grow in relation to the overall business. Ekstra Bladet has experienced the largest grow in digital circulation with its digital subscription solution Ekstrabladet+, which according to their own numbers has passed 40.000 digital subscribers. However, there is still a long way to reach the Swedish Aftonbladet, which has passed 250,000 digital subscribers with the same model as Ekstra Bladet.

Other newspapers work to a greater degree with combining the printed newspaper with digital subscriptions, e.g. in a combination with receiving the digital newspaper during the weekdays and the printed newspaper in the weekend. Earlier this year Information announced that this strategy has brought the digital circulation close to 30% of the total circulation.
The future is digital – also for the newspapers. The competition will certainly become more intense as the emergence of new media companies, who are born digital, are rising. Luckily, it looks like there is a market for paid news content online – if the quality is right!

You can read more about the report World Press Trends 2017 here.