News Publishers See Acceptance In Pay Models, Mainly From The Left

Driven partly by the so-called “Trump Bump,” paid subscriptions to online news publishers appear to be growing in many markets worldwide, according to the 2018 edition of the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report. The report, which is based on thousands of surveys conducted online in each market by YouGov, analyzes efforts to persuade consumers to pay directly for online news via subscriptions, membership, donations, as well as per-article payment models.

“Our data suggest that these efforts are paying off in some countries, but not yet in others – with significant progress being made by Nordic countries in particular,” the report notes, adding, “Substantial increases have come from market leaders Norway (+4) and Sweden (+6), as well as Finland (+4). All these countries have a small number of publishers who are relentlessly pursuing a variety of paywall strategies. They have the added benefit of coming from wealthy societies that value news, have a strong subscription tradition, and where language and the small size of their market protects them from foreign competition.”

The percentage of Americans saying they have paid for online news in the past year, remains among the highest of the markets surveyed -- 16% -- but is unchanged from Reuters 2016 report.

“The main beneficiaries of the U.S. surge in subscriptions since 2016 have been liberal newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post,” the report finds. The Times has increased digital subscription revenues by almost 50% in the last year as it heads for a target of 10 million subscribers globally. The Washington Post does not give official numbers but an internal memo revealed digital-only subscribers had reached more than 1 million, doubling in the last year.

“As the following chart shows, almost all the growth in the last two years has come from those who identify on the left or in the centre – along with under 35s. This is clear statement from those groups about the continuing need for high-quality journalism that can hold the Trump administration to account. These are also frequently respondents with much higher trust in news than most Americans.”

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