Media Subscription

Paywalls are back? For the FT, they never went away

The pink financial paper has used online subscriptions since 2002. After decades of diminishing ad returns, fellow digital publishers are finally catching on.

Late last year, the Financial Times reached a pretty big milestone: It exceeded 900,000 paying subscriptions, both print and digital–up from 780,000 in 2015. That’s no small feat for a media company that, like all other media companies, is facing the constant perils and headwinds of digital advertising.

As many trends ultimately let publishers down (e.g. Facebook’s newsfeed), some media companies are going retro and looking toward the age-old business model of subscriptions. Condé Nast recently announced its plans to offer more metered paywalls for magazines including Wired and Vanity Fair; the New York Times recently lowered the number of free reads it allows every month in an attempt to bring in even more paying customers; even Business Insider has begun implementing a paywall for select stories.

For many companies, going the digital subscription route is a somewhat new plan–an attempt to reclaim old print-era strategies to drum up revenue alternatives. This comes as publishers are faced with a digital ad crisis. Media companies have historically relied on advertising as a primary means of revenue, but have seen growth sputter as Facebook and Google began sucking up the majority of the digital advertising marketshare. But online subscriptions are old hat for Ridding. He’s been building a series of business models to counteract fluctuating digital ads. “We’re on a journey to sustainable and dynamic growth,” he says, “and we’re having to swim against some pretty strong tides.”

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