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News companies reverse course on hard subscriptions

Money - Recycle
Thought Leader: Sara Fischer
February 6, 2024
Source: AXIOS
Written by: Sara Fischer

News companies are reversing course on hard subscriptions — once seen as a safer alternative to the volatile ad market — in favor of flexible paywalls, membership programs and more ads.

The big picture: A strategy focused mainly on subscriptions requires upfront spending on premium content. That takes time to pay off — and many publishers don’t have the cushion for that in the current ad slowdown.

Driving the news: Substack, the platform built on the promise of letting creators directly charge their audiences, is experimenting with a new pilot program that helps creators find advertisers and coordinate ad buys, Axios has learned.

Between the lines: While a few major national news outlets, such as the New York Times, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, have had success scaling their subscriber bases, most other news companies have struggled to sustain momentum following the Trump-era subscription news boom.

Zoom out: Trade outlets have had greater success in subscriptions catered to niche audiences that are primarily professionals.

Be smart: Even bigger entertainment companies are now hedging against their subscription models to increase profitability.

What to watch: The subscription slowdown over the past few years has prompted a slew of new models to take shape that still seek direct revenue from readers, but don’t prevent news outlets from reaching wide audiences.

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