Many newspapers face a challenge in generating enough digital subscription revenue to wean themselves off sales of print subscriptions. A key step in boosting digital revenue is identifying readers
who are most engaged with online content, indicating a greater willingness to pay for it, according to consulting firm Mather Economics
Newspapers tend to charge
too little for their digital products, creating an imbalance where online readers make up 23% of total subscription volumes, but only 11% of total revenue. The average revenue from a digital
subscriber is about one-third of what is for a print subscriber, Mather found.
Converting print subscribers into digital-only customers isn’t easy, as old habits are
hard to break. Slightly more than 1% of people who receive a print newspaper convert to its online edition every year.
Unfortunately, many of those readers switch from print
to digital because the introductory rates are very enticing. A reader who paid an average of $8.46 a week to receive a print paper moved to digital-only access for $1.41. (Of course, digital
distribution presumably costs less than printing and delivering a newspaper.)
Subscribers who switched from print to digital tended to show the highest levels of online
engagement, as measured by article pageviews. About one-quarter (23%) of print-to-digital conversions engaged with the electronic edition of a newspaper, more than for any other group, including
digital-only subscribers at 15%.
“Publishers can mitigate the rate cannibalization from conversions by proactively offering digital packages to print users highly
engaged with the e-edition that are higher than the introductory digital price,” according to Mather.
Publishers can prioritize offers to those print readers and
implement fees to dissuade readers from repeatedly signing up for an introductory rate and canceling when the promotion period is over.