Commentary

'El Pais' Grows From Zero To 100,000 Subscribers

After reading a report that said Google, Facebook and Amazon together captured more than half of the entire U.S. advertising market last year -- and almost 90% of digital ad spend-- it's hard to see how the publishing industry can be optimistic about ad revenue growth.

Obviously, the so-called "triopoly" doesn't monopolize consumer attention as long as people are still reading newspapers and magazines, visiting websites, watching TV, listening to the radio and using other social-media apps. However, Google, Facebook and Amazon have significant scale and gather vast amounts of consumer data for audience targeting.

Where does that leave publishers?

Increasingly, they're hardening their paywalls or putting them up for the first time instead of giving away their product for free — hoping they can monetize the higher web traffic.

El País, the Spanish-language daily owned by the Madrid-based media conglomerate PRISA, is the latest publication to start charging readers to access its website. Going from zero digital subscribers to 100,000 in less than a year, the growth has exceeded its forecasts, according to a blog post.
After delaying its plans to implement a metered paywall from March to May because of the pandemic, El País started giving readers access to as many as 10 articles a month for free before asking them to pay. Critical information about COVID-19 was still available for free, consistent with the policy of other publishers to keep readers informed about the crisis.
Many readers chose a monthly subscription during the first few weeks of the metered paywall, but more have signed on to yearly subscriptions when asked to renew. About 25% of its digital subscribers are located outside of Spain, which may indicate it has more potential to grow in Latin American markets.
El País is a comparable latecomer to digital subscriptions that have become more important to a variety of new publishers worldwide. Gannett Corp., The New York Times, News Corp. and The Washington Post all saw digital subscription growth as homebound consumers spent more time online.
“We are going to emerge from this global crisis with a better editorial proposal and a promising business model," El País EIC Javier Moreno said in the blog post.

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