Print Price Tag: Subscription Costs Are Reducing Demand For Newspapers

Print remains the main circulation revenue source for publishers despite declining numbers and the growth of digital. But high price increases may account for some subscription falloff, judging by Unraveling US Newspapers' Digital and Print Subscriptions in the Context of Price, 2016–2022, a new academic study. 

Predictably, digital circulation surged during Covid 19. But the revenue failed to make up for the decline in print, according to authors Hsiang Iris Chyi, of the School of Journalism and Media, The University of Texas at Austin, page1image274066608and Sun Ho Jeong, from the Department of Mass Communication, Konkuk University, South Korea. 

This study analyzed the circulation and pricing data of 18 major newspapers before, during and after the pandemic.



The authors found that “digital circulation increased rapidly after the onset of Covid-19 but subsequently decreased after reaching the peak in Q3 2021.” 

Meanwhile, print circulation “continued its rapid decline since 2016, accompanied by continuous, substantial price hikes for print subscriptions—a typical print subscription now costs over $1,000 a year.”

Leading the game, “The Boston Globe charges $1,347/year for a print subscription while offering its “all digital access” package at $333 (already the highest digital price among all 18 papers).”

The Boston Globe lost 37,908 print subscribers from 2019 to 2022. The Los Angeles Times saw 80,722 subscribers depart during that period. 

Despite circulation declines, “the print edition remains the core product, with more subscribers paying far more than digital subscribers,” the authors write.

They continue, “Because of the immense price gap (6 to 1), the seemingly promising increase in digital subscriptions during Covid-19 could not generate nearly as much revenue to cover the loss on the print side, resulting in a substantial loss in total subscription revenue.”

Moreover, “despite these 18 newspapers gaining 290,780 digital subscribers during the pandemic, they lost 544,297 print subscribers, indicating that not everyone who discontinued the increasingly expensive print subscription turned to the same newspaper’s digital subscription despite a much lower price,” the authors add. 

2 comments about "Print Price Tag: Subscription Costs Are Reducing Demand For Newspapers".
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  1. Barry Green from Barry Green & Associates, December 18, 2023 at 9:02 a.m.

    I have no idea where the $1000 a year print subscription comes from.
    I'm in Silicon Valley Cal. My NY Timed print & digital  7 day sub is $520 a year 
    Once special is over I call to unsubscribe and I get the same deal year in and out.
    My Wall Street a journal Mon-Friday plus Werkend & digital is $33 a month $396 a year

    i really doubt most people would pay full price for a newspaper unless it's an office environment or they have way to much money 

  2. Harold Hallikainen from Independent, December 18, 2023 at 12:34 p.m.

    I don't think comparing revenue is a valid comparison. What are the direct costs associated with hard copy delivery versus electronic delivery? Years ago, I heard that the subscription cost of a print publication paid for printing and delivery only. Advertising paid for everything else, including the content. Is that still the case (or was it ever)? I also read years ago that advertising in paid print publications was more valuable than that in free print publications since people are more likely to read the publications they paid for.

    How does ad viewership compare between hard copy publications and their digital versions? How doe sthe price of the ad compare? Is an ad less valuable in a digital publication than in print? Does the possibility of ad targeting make digital ads more valuable than print (in print, they always said half the advertising is wasted, but we did not know which half).

    I still get the daily Arizona Star and the Sunday New York Times (which takes me all week to read).


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