A new study identified nine “paths to subscription” that get readers to sign up and pay for local news, as more publishers turn to subscription revenue to offset losses in print advertising.
Readers subscribe when they: “hit paywalls online, closely follow a single topic, develop a strong relationship through social media, closely watch civic affairs, passionately defend a free press, were influenced to subscribe by a friend, like to read the news in print, enjoy clipping coupons and recently moved to the area,” according to the study, conducted by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The study included 4,113 recent subscribers from 90 local newspapers across 12 different newspaper companies in the U.S.
“The move toward subscriptions requires newspapers to identify potential subscribers with analytics that measure motives and engagement, not just page views,” stated Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. “Newspapers need to understand the paths to subscription and guide each reader along his or her journey by delivering the types of value and engagement desired and tailoring their acquisition and retention strategies to each group.”
A reader’s background also affects their willingness to pay for local news. Some 61% of those surveyed want access to local news, 40% notice a lot of useful articles and 31% want to support local journalism.
But the biggest trigger to push a reader to subscribe is a discount or promotion offer — nearly half (45%) cited this reason for subscribing to a local news outlet, more than double any other factor.
Once readers have subscribed, reliability and accuracy of the publication's coverage are very important to most new subscribers (78%), according to the study.
The size of the newspaper also affects the reasons behind people's motivation to subscribe.
New subscribers to small newspapers are more likely than those at larger metros to prefer print over digital (85% vs. 56%) and to subscribe after moving to town (23% vs. 13%).
Digital subscribers in the Media Insight Project study tend to be younger, male and more educated than print readers. Half of digital subscribers in the study are triggered to pay for content when they hit a paywall, too.
Retaining subscribers is a matter of quality, according to the study. Seventy-eight percent value getting reliable, accurate facts, and 68% value a newspaper dealing fairly with all sides.