Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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German publishers sell paid content worth more than €700m a year

Each year in its #1 issue, published at the beginning of January, pv digest estimates the turnover German publishers generate by selling their paid digital products.

The €-figures are based upon gross consumer prices (incl. taxes). The data claims to represent the total of paid-for digital B2C-journalism. That is primarily the digital products of newspaper and magazine publishers but also some digital only publications (when it comes to pure digital publishers with reader revenue models, Germany is a developing country at best, though).

Sources for this analysis are data from IVW (the German audit bureau of circulations), other publicly available figures and behind the scenes research by pv digest. Current price data is researched by pv digest.

€700m per year is a run rate. It represents the extrapolation of current figures to a timespan of 12 months. 12 months ago, this figure stood at €527m. So the paid content-revenues of German publishers have risen +33% in the last year. That’s about the same growth rate as from 2019 to 2020 and considerably higher than in the years 2014-2019.

Growth comes from more sales rather than more expensive products.

This growth comes primarily from selling paid content to more people. Only around 20% of the growth can be attributed to higher prices compared to the previous analysis.

Apart from the very few digital only outlets (subsumed under magazines) paid content in Germany is offered primarily by newspapers and to a much smaller extent from magazine publishers. Since more than 70% of revenues go to newspapers, further differentiation makes sense.

The following graph distinguishes 4 segments of newspaper paid content:

  1. Bild, the big German tabloid brand and paid content pioneer
  2. national dailies
  3. digital only subscriptions to products of regional (and local) dailies
  4. surplus digital revenues from adding access to paid digital products to the print subscriptions of regional (and local) dailies

Paid content in Germany primarily is digital subscriptions to replica editions. Though some newspapers and magazines do have mobile applications which give much better adapted access to the editions of magazines and newspapers, all of them also sell replica editions. Only these replica editions are valid currency in the advertising market. That’s why product strategy for years had been centered around subscriptions that include the PDF/replica.

By and by paywalls are gaining weight. German national dailies (leaving out the unicorn Bild) currently get a third of their reader revenues from selling access to their web or mobile app products. Regional dailies are much more conservative. Only 8% of their digital reader revenues come from paywall-subs. Only 12 months ago, this share had been only half of that. Paywall-revenues of German regional and local dailies roughly have doubled in the last 12 months.

Markus Schöberl
Editor and Publisher, pv digest

This analysis was first published here, and is republished with kind permission.