This week in Subscription Publishing:
- New and notable job vacancies in subscription publishing: Publishers are hunting for the right skill sets and experience necessary to power growth .
- The New York Times confirmed its acquisition of subscription-based sports publisher The Athletic, adding over 1 million subscribers to its total count.
- The FTC is being increasingly clear about “click to cancel” requirements for subscriptions, in case there was any doubt around its previous guidance.
- News publishers are diversifying their content mixes as demand for news subscriptions dwindles.
New and notable roles in subscription publishing
For publishers, finding the right talent to operate and grow subscription products and initiatives isn’t easy. There’s a dearth of candidates with the experience, skillsets and mindsets necessary to power sustainable growth, and hiring for subscriptions-related functions and roles is proving increasingly challenging.
At Toolkits we work with a range of publishers on a consultancy and advisory basis to help them establish staffing requirements, and institute hiring plans that will propel their subscription efforts and businesses forward. Increasingly, we’re also helping clients source talented subscription publishing professionals from the Toolkits community, and via a handful of recruitment experts with which we partner.
Starting today, we’ll be curating new and notable job vacancies and roles from across the subscription publishing world in one place with a new jobs resource on the Toolkits site. Our goal is to give Toolkits readers an easy, centralized place to uncover and connect with the best career opportunities out there.
The database of subscription publishing job vacancies will be updated weekly, and currently features roles from Bloomberg, Insider, Vox Media, The Economist, The Financial Times, The New York Times, and more. If you have a job you’d like us to consider for inclusion, contact us.
The FTC is crystal clear on “click to cancel” requirements for digital subscriptions
The FTC is continuing to make clear that publishers are now legally required to offer subscribers “click to cancel” functionality for subscriptions they purchased digitally.
FTC chair Lina Khan stated plainly in a tweet this week that “If you click to subscribe, you should be able to click to cancel.”
Last year the FTC formally signaled to publishers (and other companies) that they must offer “easy and simple” ways for customers to cancel subscriptions, and that cancelling must be “at least as easy” as subscribing. Some publishers have attempted to interpret that message creatively, suggesting that if a subscriber purchased a subscription digitally, then engaging with chat functionality or a complicated digital cancellation process might satisfy the FTC’s demands.
The FTC’s position is becoming increasingly clear, however, and it appears that any publisher allowing readers to purchase subscriptions with a click of a button must now also let subscribers cancel with a click of a button in order to comply with the law.
The new cancellation requirements are causing headaches for many publishers, who will need to tread carefully to manage the impact they might have on their businesses.
NYT will purchase The Athletic and its 1.2 million subscribers for $550 million
The New York Times has agreed to purchase subscription-based sports publisher The Athletic for $550 million. The move was expected, but is notable for a few key reasons:
- NYT has been ahead of the pack in diversifying its subscriber offerings beyond straight news, with initiatives around Cooking, Games and utility-driven content with Wirecutter. Adding local sports coverage to its mix could boost “stickiness” of its subscription offerings and help drive continued subscriber growth, particularly as consumer interest in hard news dwindles.
- The Athletic’s revenue has been derived almost exclusively from subscriptions to date, but NYT has a track record of layering advertising and sponsorship revenue on top of its core subscription efforts to great effect. The performative subscriptions vs advertising “debate” has run its course, and smart publishers are increasingly realizing that combining both revenue streams proves a powerful combination.
- Adding The Athletic’s 1.2 million subscribers to NYT’s 8.3 million will quickly advance the news publisher towards its stated goal of reaching 10 million subscribers by 2025. NYT CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said there was “relatively little” overlap between the two companies’ subscriber bases.
We expect NYT to attempt to continue to broaden its content mix over the coming years, both through internal initiatives and through additional acquisitions.
News publishers are diversifying their content as demand for news subscriptions dwindles
Audience interest in news content dipped significantly in 2021, resulting in a notable softening of demand for news-focused subscription products. Now, many publishers are seeking ways to diversify their subscriber offerings beyond just news, not only to drive subscriber growth but – more crucially – to maintain their existing subscriber bases.
Most news publishers we work with at Toolkits saw slowdowns in new subscriber conversions in 2021 compared with the two years prior. There are many reasons for those slowdowns, and they vary from one publisher to the next, but a major contributing factor has been a broad and ongoing decline in demand for news. Read more.
Other notable Reads:
- Subscriptions continue to be a core focus for digital media startups aiming for quality over quantity, The Financial Times reports.
- Bloomberg chief executive Justin Smith and Ben Smith, the media columnist at The New York Times, are starting a new media company focused on “global news”. The pair have given few details so far on how the company intends to differentiate from the myriad other publications promising to do the same.
- In a new column, The Information CEO Jessica Lessin argues that “influencer journalists” should not be the future of journalism. “Long term, the current obsession with treating journalists like influencers isn’t healthy for journalism”, she argues.
For more practical guidance on building sustainable subscription and membership products and businesses, see the Subscription Publishing Toolkit.