The new Global Digital Subs Snapshot is available – read James Hewes’ summary

Welcome to the first Global Digital Subscription Snapshot of 2021, which we’re delighted to bring to you in collaboration with our partners at CeleraOne once again.

Much has changed in our world over the last 12 months – but one thing remains the same, the New York Times continues to dominate the publisher space. A couple of highlights to pick out from their latest data :

  • At approaching 7m digital subscribers, their numbers have doubled in just 2 years
  • Digital subscriptions revenue overtook print subscriptions for the first time in 2020; it now makes up 34% of NYT’s revenue. Advertising is just 22%.

Kopit Levein, NYT’s CEO, has just set a new target of achieving 10 million subscribers by 2025. I’m here to tell you that, bearing in mind their long-term rate of growth is actually increasing at the moment, they’ll smash that target. I estimate they’ll pass 10m in the middle of next year and that by 2025, they should be aiming for 25m subscribers.

It’ll be interesting to see the extent to which NYT see other content types playing a role in fuelling that growth. Pretty much all of it so far comes from traditional words and pictures but will they require greater investment in video and audio to attract – and retain – subscribers as they get beyond their new target?

This report also contains a salutary warning on the dangers of over-reaching. Just 18 months ago De Correspondent were the darlings of the digital subscription start-up space, registering huge success in their home market of The Netherlands, and with ambitious plans to launch in the US. In January of this year, their English-language version, The Correspondent, was gone, with uncertain consequences for the parent organisation.

There’s nothing wrong with setting ambitious goals, it’s a great way to galvanise growth. Probably the best example is Disney+, which seems to have definitively “won” the streaming wars by achieving its 100m four-year subscriber target within just 12 months of launch. With a raft of new programming based around popular franchises coming down the track, it won’t be long before they overtake Netflix, who are in danger of becoming the Yahoo! of streaming.

The video streaming market is seeing a boom in new services, with HBO Max announcing new international goals and the re-branding of CBS’ service to Paramount+, presumably in the hope of increasing its appeal. The market feels like it’s approaching saturation, with some kind of consolidation inevitable. Across publishing, video and audio, we will arrive soon at a critical question – if you can’t succeed in attracting a viable subscription audience, can you exist as a standalone business? I suspect the answer is no.

In publishing media though, we’re still a long way from that point. Across the board, we see outstanding growth rates and new entries to the report, all showing that we are still firmly in the beginning of the boom in digital subscriptions. A few highlights – the outstanding growth of La Nación in Argentina, giving hope to a market whose print industry has been suffering; The Telegraph in the UK, powering ahead with a digital subs strategy that is delivering a consistent growth rate of 18% per quarter, at which rate they will quickly catch The Guardian, having already overtaken The Times; and Wired, providing further evidence to a magazine industry reluctant to take the plunge that substantial growth and audience in this area is possible.

There’s hundreds of other stories I could pull out from the report – I haven’t even touched on audio and a growth story fuelled by podcasting – I’m sure you’ll find many more.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find this report useful.

The Global Digital Subscription Snapshot is available to FIPP members, you can access it here. Not a member yet? Join FIPP via the report page to get access to a comprehensive library of video, data, the new Innovation in Media World Report and more.

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