Subscription Models in Digital Media

Understand how the subscription model is becoming a popular revenue stream for publishers and what are the challenges they face in this journey.
Subscription Models in Digital Media
Subscription Models in Digital Media

Monetization has always been a challenging task for publishers. But as the times passed, new revenue streams popped up while some older ones like the subscription model turned out to be a game-changer.

Quintype conducted a webinar on “Subscription Models in Digital Media” to understand how subscription models gradually became the most-talked-about revenue channel.

The webinar was hosted by Bharadwaj S, Senior Product Manager at Quintype, who talked to Chitranshu Tewari, Director of Product & revenue at Newslaundry. Newslaundry is one of the first digital news platforms whose main revenue comes from subscriptions.

Throughout the webinar, Bharadwaj and Chitranshu touched upon various aspects of subscription models – their importance for publishers, different types of subscription models, their challenges, etc.

Mr. Bhardwaj started the session with the most important question, “why the subscription model is a primary and most important source of revenue?” Answering this, Mr. Chitranshu revealed that publishers have now understood that to become an independent media house, they cannot rely on advertisers’ funds. He said there are two reasons for this: big platforms are getting bigger chunks of ad revenues, and secondly, people want good and quality journalism. And good journalism does not sit well with advertisements.

Taking the conversation further, Mr. Bharadwaj asked Mr. Chitranshu about the key success factors that publishers should consider if they are planning to adopt a subscription model. Owing to his years of experience, Mr. Chitranshu clearly described the two main factors: brand proposition and the relationship with the reader. He said that publishers should focus on offering stories that are exclusive and of high quality. Further, they should also invest in building direct engagement with the reader via webinars and other initiatives.

The next topic was about how many types of reader revenue models are there. To this, Mr. Chitranshu discussed three categories. One was the regular subscription, where you have a recurring subscription, or you give readers access to paywalled content. The second type was the crowdfunding model – like NL Sena – wherein readers fund for the theme-based reports and stories they want to read. The third type was the famous pay-per-article model in which readers pay for the particular article they wish to read.

Mr. Bharadwaj pointed out that the crowdfunding method could be a great way to build community and asked Mr. Chitranshu how publishers can create such a community. Answering this, Chitranshu said that the crowdfunding method works when you already have loyal readers. These readers feel some authority over the content since they get to fund stories, and that is why such a method is popular.

Picking from the points, Mr. Bharadwaj asked what are some challenges one can come across while implementing the reader revenue model. Mr. Chitranshu said that the biggest challenge was to convince readers to pay. He noted that Newslaundry had invested a lot in marketing and editorial to change this psyche. They also came up with slogans like “When advertisers pay, advertisers are served and when the public pays, the public is served,” or “One should pay to keep the news free.”

The second challenge, according to Chitranshu, is technology. He said that apart from Accesstype from Quintype, he does not really see any big names when it comes to subscription management platforms. The third challenge was quite different and touched on the organization’s standpoint. Mr. Chitranshu said that a subscription-led newsroom is far different than big scale media houses where the focus is on chasing speed, accuracy, and scale to please advertisers. On the contrary, a reporter at a subscription-led newsroom chases valuable and in-depth stories that readers love.

The panel also discussed the link between reader engagement and revenue, marketing tactics like discounts, and so on. Then Bharadwaj asked what were the key criteria Chitranshu considered while evaluating the subscription management platforms. To this, Chitranshu replied that the features and products that the platform offers make a huge impact. The next criteria was about how long the platform has been in the market. Finally, he highlighted that good customer support is also a key criterion saying that “Efficiency of the support team matters a lot.”

The panel then turned on to data points and how the data analytics built within subscription management platforms help publishers. Chitranshu noted that while data points are crucial, publishers have to understand which data points and metrics should be followed.

During the last few minutes of the session, Bharadwaj let the audience ask questions that touched upon topics related to tracking user engagement, the core metrics for data analytics, and readers from rural areas.

The one-hour session ended with Chitranshu answering a question by one of the attendees about which subscription model is the best. Chitranshu said, “There is no alternative to having recurring subscriptions… at the end of the day, recurring subscriptions are at the heart of the subscription or reader revenue model.”

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