Digital Publishing Top Stories
3 mins read

“The momentum is clearly with digital”: How publishers can successfully manage the shift from print

“What’s abundantly clear today is that the industry stands at one of the strongest points we have found it in, since the birth of Google in 1998.”

Although print still accounts for a large proportion of the revenue, digital is steadily increasing its share. New FIPP report offers tips to publishers for effectively growing their digital revenue and keeping a healthy balance with the print side of the business.  

“Agility is probably the most important thing that a management team can have now in a media business,” says James Hewes, President and CEO, FIPP. “There are no sacred cows – you can’t say that this is the way we do things.” 

He is referring to the print and digital aspects of the publishing business. Print subscriptions represent approximately 55.9% of the total paid subscriptions, and digital accounts for 44.1%, according to Mather Economics’ latest Subscription Benchmarking Report

In terms of revenue, print accounts for 83.8% of total subscriptions revenue while digital’s share is 16.2%. However, when looking at the proportion of new starts for subscriptions to each medium, print accounts for 33.2% and digital 66.8%. 

Source: From Print to Digital, FIPP

“This confirms what we know, that print holds the legacy popularity, while the momentum is clearly with digital,” states a new FIPP report. “Soon, we will reach a subscription volume tipping point where the latter overtakes the former.” 

The report, From Print to Digital, offers tips for publishers moving from print to digital, and how they can manage the economics of that shift.

“You’ve got to be flexible and try new things”

As the print business continues to decline and digital grows, publishers need to manage both differently. “You manage that business (print) for value, you manage it for profit,” adds Hewes. “Your digital business is going to be growing, or they should be growing, so you manage them for growth. You take the profits from your legacy business and invest those into the new areas.”

You’ve got to be flexible and try new things, whilst at the same time recognizing that your legacy business, your core business, is the thing that’s providing the profit that enables you to do that. So balancing the old and the new, the existing and the potential, is a really important feature of management. 

James Hewes, President and CEO, FIPP

Reader revenue has emerged as one of the most important monetization strategies for the industry. “As publishers move toward a digital subscriptions strategy, it’s crucial to think about what content is most effective at driving subscriptions,” the report suggests.

“Game changer for publishers”

A 2021 Mather study, Latin American Subscription Lab Report, found that readers who eventually became subscribers consumed less than half of all digital content from participating newsrooms. In the 30 days prior to converting, these subscribers only engaged with 33% of the content available to them. These articles also accounted for 86% of all article page views.

Adopting a robust data-driving strategy when it comes to paid subscriber-only content can be a game changer for publishers.

From Print to Digital, FIPP

Mather has also found that targeting readers who are most likely to subscribe with acquisition offers increases the number of acquired subscribers by 11%. It also saves about 30% in the lost advertising revenue compared to the more aggressive across-the-board strategy and raises net digital revenue by 27%. 

If you suddenly set your sights on subscriptions, and subscriptions alone… and throw the reach baby out to make way for the reader revenue bathwater, then this not only neglects a key part of the onboarding process, but of course jeopardizes advertising revenue.

From Print to Digital, FIPP

“Taking a joined-up approach to growth, engagement, conversion, and management ensures we are not neglecting any one part of the process,” the report suggests. Here are the key tactics it recommends for growing the audience, engaging users, and eventually converting them to subscribers.

Source: From Print to Digital, FIPP

“The industry stands at one of the strongest points”

Subscriptions represent a healthy way of growth as the publishing business becomes increasingly digital. “They arguably provide more stable and controllable forms of revenue than other sources,” the authors note. 

However, they emphasize that “advertising should not be forgotten. And indeed, with the cookiepocalypse looming, and high-quality, first-party data environments coming back into fashion amongst brands, there are huge opportunities for success across the revenue streams, if only they are balanced in the right way.” 

What’s abundantly clear today is that the industry stands at one of the strongest points we have found it in, since the birth of Google in 1998.

From Print to Digital, FIPP

The full report can be downloaded here:
From Print to Digital