Digital news subscriptions have become a norm for media companies and their readers but are they the saving grace that publishers are hoping for?
We don’t think so.
The number of media companies pivoting to paywalls and subscriptions has skyrocketed over the past few years. Announcements continue almost every day about digital paywalls and initiatives to drive new paying subscribers. According to an International News Media Association survey, 73% of newspapers had deployed some type of paywall (in 2017). Digital readers are now greeted with a limited number and access to articles published by reputable publishers.

The activity is hardly surprising, given how difficult the digital advertising market is for everybody not named Google or Facebook – who own the lion share. Publishers are seeking solutions to create a stable stream of income as well as capture the market share of readers instead of relying on advertisers to keep their sites free and open. At the end of the day, publishers have to try something to change things up. Unfortunately, increased reliance on subscriptions and paywalls will be problematic for all publishers. At SocialFlow, we’ve helped clients run thousands of ads and campaigns for subscriptions, so we know a thing or two about driving new revenues. However, nobody, not even SocialFlow, can solve the share of wallet problem that all paying subscriptions face.

“SHARE OF WALLET: How much of a consumer’s monthly spend can you reasonably hope to obtain?
And what happens when dozens of other content creators are competing for those same dollars?”

With the subscription model, publishers and media companies are competing with each other for a finite amount of user attention, as well as being forced to deliver high-quality content at a low cost. The unfortunate reality is that on average, the more successful someone else is at signing a subscriber up, the less successful others are going to be. A user is not likely to continue to buy into subscriptions once they hit their financial threshold.

“The more success you are at signing someone up, the less successful someone else is going to be.”

So, if a paywall won’t be your salvation, what’s a publisher to do?

Our three pieces of advice are simple, even in these difficult times. Check them out below:

#1: Continue to be efficient in how you distribute content to social networks.
You can’t just abandon those platforms, but you can spend less time and get better results using SocialFlow. Revaluate and rebalance content going to different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Apple News, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram) to maintain a social presence.

#2: Continue to cultivate your advertiser relationships.
The advertising world is experiencing its own upheaval, but it still wants to be associated with the best-performing content, in a brand-safe way, so continue selling sponsorship of high-performing editorial posts. There’s no reason those relationships can’t include the social component.

#3: Keep an eye out for new, and innovative technologies.
Exciting opportunities are on the horizon; innovation can thrive even when broader trends aren’t favorable. Technology such as blockchain are confusing and can over-hyped but offer media companies a chance to better monetize the content you work so hard to produce.

See what Reuters Digital thinks about Subscriptions here.