2024 is shaping up to be an eventful year for global politics, international conflict, and major sporting competitions, all of which typically drive consumer demand for access to high-quality journalism and reporting.
For subscription-first publishers, a busy news calendar presents an opportunity not only to reach and engage new paying subscribers but also to develop and deepen relationships with existing audiences during a period of heightened news interest.
Elections are due to be held in 76 countries, impacting over 4 billion people, including those in major news markets across Europe, India, and the U.S. Tensions continue to mount in the Middle East and Taiwan while Russia’s war in Ukraine persists. And sports fans around the world are preparing for the Summer Olympics in Paris and the European football championship in Germany.
For the past two years, publishers have dealt with a relatively quiet news cycle compared with the bumps they enjoyed in the runup to the 2016 U.S. election and during the onset and fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. News publishers across the board found converting and retaining subscribers increasingly challenging during 2022 and 2023 as the market for their subscription offerings matured and consumers controlled their spending more tightly in the face of economic uncertainty.
Many publishers now expect those difficulties will subside somewhat in the months ahead, however, as major global events draw consumer attention back to the news and – hopefully – their paid offerings. INMA predicts that news publishers’ reader revenues will increase 13% on average by Q3 2024, compared with Q1 of 2023. It also expects an average news brand will see a 10% increase in both digital subscriber volume and revenue in the first quarter of 2024 compared to 2023.
It remains to be seen which publishers and brands might benefit from a news cycle bump most. It stands to reason that household news brands with large existing subscriber bases could fare best, while smaller or niche publications might see organic demand grow to a lesser degree. Toolkits research suggests subscription demand remains strong generally, and that concerns about “peak subscription” are so far unfounded as consumers continue to add to their subscription portfolios. Some publishers say they’re particularly hopeful that an eventful year might help them unlock incremental growth among the 63% of consumers who say they’ve never held a digital publication subscription.