The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently issued its global Digital News Report for 2014. There are success stories—in Germany, leading publisher Axel Springer recruited over 150,000 subscribers for its premium service BILD Plus in its first six months; the editor credited it to their “multimedia storytelling and our very own journalistic BILD content.” But overall, Reuters’ data says that only about 10% of online users pay for some digital news in most countries.
In honor of the recent World Cup, here are 7 items that caught my eye.
1. Important goals. Brazil at 22% had the most people paying for online news last year. The U.S. is at about 11% while the UK only 7% (although almost half of that 7% now pay through a subscription; 40% of Americans paying for news do so through a subscription). The overall proportion of those paying for news who have an online news subscription has grown from 43% to 59%.
Takeaway: While subscriptions seem to be growing, the number of individuals paying for online news is not. Thus the importance of lead generation.
2. Halftime analysis. What are the reasons for signing up and staying with online news? In The U.K., about 43% said they signed up because it enables access wherever and whenever they want, but only 32% stayed for that reason. The quality of the editorial was more important for why people stay—31% joined for that reason but 36% stay because of it. Other reasons: 17% sign up and stay for special offers; 35% sign up because it’s a brand they prefer for news but then 44% stay for that reason.
Takeaway: According to this study, the #1 reason people keep an online news subscription is broad range of coverage.
3. Set pieces. About37% of survey respondents said they access news on a phone at least once a week, and 20% said they primarily access news via a mobile device. “People talk about smartphones and tablets together, but the smartphone is really the disruptor,” said digital strategist Nic Newman, one of the co-authors. He noted that tablet users tend to skew older. “It’s so much more mobile, and so much more personal.”
Takeaway: Optimize your emails for mobile.
4. Corner kicks. Does your audience use social media for news? Most likely. Over a third said they have used Facebook for news in the last week (37% in the U.S.), while 15% have used YouTube and 9% Twitter. WhatsApp is a growing news tool at 6%; a third of the respondents in Brazil, Italy and Germany use it on a weekly basis. The fact that each country has its favorite social media makes it more challenging to draw in those readers, Newman said. “It makes it very difficult if you’re trying to be a global publisher,” he said.
Takeaway: Keep your Facebook presence up to date and approach each country separately.
5. New formations. Tablet users are roughly twice as likely to pay for news in both the U.K. (14%) and U.S. (19%). They did find a significant correlation with Apple tablets—that the owners are much more likely to pay for news than those on other tablets, especially in the U.S.
Takeaway: Don’t give up on the young. The people who said they are most likely to pay for news (who never have) are those in age group 18-24 (13%) followed by those 25-34 (12%).
6. Check the replay. Wrote Reuters Institute director of research, Robert G. Picard, “A major emerging strategy is the acquisition of video rights to help drive acceptance of paid tablet and smartphone services. The general press are producing more distinctive video content using their own journalists as well as offering news clips…”
Takeaway: Do video. I just read that, for some uses, the iPhone is the best way to shoot video; it’s unobtrusive and people are comfortable around it.
7. Group play. The membership model is “being pursued by news providers whose users have strong psychological links to the organization. Readers of the Guardian in the UK, for example, are less interested in subscriptions for general web access, but more interested in memberships because of their connotations of community and association. Consequently [the Guardian] is exploring revenue streams based on membership and live experiences, and close engagement with readers on all platforms.”
Takeaway: The more benefits and touch points you can provide to your audience, the better your retention will be.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 .