Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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Digital subscription fatigue? Not according to Readly

This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report showed that 21% of US adults pay for at least one news subscription, with most of these paying for two. What was once viewed as an expensive luxury is now a staple item amongst many consumers used to paying for multiple subscriptions, reflected by the fact that the subscription economy has grown 435% in the last 9 years.

The big question is whether the publishing industry has hit ‘peak subscription’ and is now facing a battle just to retain subscribers, let alone attract more. According to Sara Guaglione, writing in Digiday, retention rates ‘are holding steady – for now’, but perhaps a better guide comes from ‘all-you-can-read’ publisher streaming service, Readly.

The company, which last year listed on the Swedish stock exchange, is legally required to file quarterly reports and its latest missive for Q2 2021 makes for encouraging reading. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Readly’s fully-paid subs stand at 420,000, up 30% YoY
  • Quarter-on-quarter volume growth rate has slowed back down to +6% for Q2 2021 from its lockdown peak of +12% (Q2 2020)
  • Readly’s strongest growth market continues to be the UK (+60% YoY), which now accounts for 23% of total revenues and makes it Readly’s second largest territory. Germany has accelerated its growth rate due to concerted marketing activity, particularly with newspapers and partnerships – it now accounts for the largest 39% of the total. Sweden’s share is 22% and Rest of World 16%.
  • Increasing publisher product inventory. A total of 23 new publishers and 85 new titles were added in Q2. In the UK, these ranged from Radio Times through to the specialist Cocoa titles. Newspapers remain an important and growing element of the content portfolio, as they improve the overall consumer offer, and boost both frequency of usage and conversion rates. 
  • In addition, there is a growing portfolio of exclusive-to-Readly content (270 issues across 60 magazines since 2018) and a repackaging of the back inventory into Readly Retros, with Motorsport being the first example. 
  • The Readly app is used for 8 hours per month on average, with 41% being Daily Active Users. 
  • Its single tier ‘all-you-can consume’ subscription price averages £7.60 per user ($10.46)

Ranj Begley, Chief Content Officer at Readly, told WNIP, “It is without doubt that many subscription businesses have been affected by the pandemic as the past year has seen us largely at-home and increasingly digital. However, many publishers have adapted their model and have responded to new behaviours, in some cases enjoying increased volume from digital subscriptions.

“Two-thirds of our subscribers say that they have started to read titles they’ve never read before and nearly a half say they have read titles they did not even know existed. As a global platform, we generate a lot of data and as publishers become more and more data-driven we contribute insights from 40 billion data points.

“Publishers have certainly become more resilient over the last year but will need to continue to work harder than ever before to attract and retain subscribers. New habits have been formed and the market is still buoyant, yet there is still opportunity for publishers to grow their subscriber base by focussing on their product strategy and creating the best possible user experience based on a deep understanding of preferences and informed by insights and data.”

We can expect to see live events and retail gaining momentum as people seek human interaction again and digital continuing to be grow. Yet, it is still a volatile time for subscriptions, with no time to rest.

Ranj Begley, Chief Content Officer, Readly

Readly’s figures come at a time when publishers are ramping up their investment in personnel hired as much for subscriber retention as attracting new ones. Speaking to Digiday, Joshua Brandau, CMO of The LA Times, disclosed that it had recruited ten people to support its subscription strategy, including designers, copywriters, acquisition managers, retention managers, a media director and media planners, and others.

Subscriber growth comes from finding new prospects but also, largely, from keeping more of our current subscribers.

Joshua Brandau, CMO, The Los Angeles Times speaking to Digiday

Our thanks to Jim Bilton of the wessendenbriefing for allowing the re-publishing of Readly’s results and their breakdown. To receive a sample issue of the wessendenbriefing, please email