- 75% of consumers are “completely” or “mostly” satisfied with the value for money they get from the digital publications they subscribe to.
- 7% of subscribers say they are “mostly” or “completely” unsatisfied.
- High cost (31%) and irrelevant content (26%) are the top reasons for subscriber dissatisfaction.
Most consumers believe the digital publications they subscribe to offer good value for money, new research by Toolkits and National Research Group found.
Seventy-five percent of subscribers reported being “completely” or “mostly” satisfied with the value for money they receive from the digital publications they subscribe to, based on a study of 2,509 U.S. consumers. Eighteen percent reported being “somewhat satisfied”, while 7 percent said they were “mostly satisfied” or “not at all satisfied”.
Consumers with multiple subscriptions were more likely to report satisfaction with publishers’ products. Seventy-seven percent of respondents with two or more subscriptions said they were satisfied, compared with 71 percent of those who hold just one.
Cost and content irrelevance cause dissatisfaction
Among subscribers who were not satisfied with the value for money they received from publishers’ subscription products, cost and content relevancy were cited as the top reasons for their dissatisfaction. Other top concerns included inconsistent content quality, too much advertising, and a lack of content variety.
Few respondents cited overall content quality, publishing frequency, or app and website design as reasons for their dissatisfaction.
‘Power subscribers’ have different expectations
Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents who hold subscriptions to multiple publications were less concerned with cost or content relevancy than respondents who hold fewer. Sixty-six percent of consumers who hold between one and five subscriptions cited cost as their top reason for dissatisfaction. For consumers with more than five subscriptions, cost was a primary concern for just 22%.
It stands to reason that ‘power subscribers’ with five or more subscriptions would be less sensitive to cost. Willingness to maintain a wide portfolio of subscriptions implies this group is relatively affluent, that it places greater value on accessing subscriber-only content, or both.
Power subscribers instead highlighted poor website/app design (38%), inconsistent quality of content (35%), and too much irrelevant content (30%) as the top reasons for dissatisfaction.
Implications for publishers
The topline numbers on subscription satisfaction rates appear promising for publishers operating subscription products. And for editorial teams specifically, the fact that relatively few respondents cited content quality or publishing frequency as prominent reasons for their dissatisfaction could be welcome news.
For those publishers looking to grow their subscriber bases and businesses further, however, the data imply:
Cost and value for money are important for attracting first-time subscribers
As we’ve explored previously, publishers will increasingly need to push beyond their core audiences and subscriber bases and attract the attention of the 63 percent of consumers who have never held a digital publication subscription to maintain growth.
The data on subscriber satisfaction implies that newer subscribers and those that hold fewer subscriptions are far more sensitive to cost and the specific value they’re receiving from products. To satisfy this group, publishers should think carefully about the perceived value of their subscriptions, and whether more focused products serving specific needs and interests might quell audience concerns about paying for content that’s not relevant to their interests. A greater emphasis on content personalization could help achieve a similar outcome.
Content quality and product experience could help retain “power subscribers”
Retaining more experienced subscribers appears to be a different challenge to attracting first-time subscribers. For this group, the data suggest a focus on content consistency, relevancy, product delivery and user experience is important, particularly as competition from attention from this relatively small but important audience continues to intensify.
Publishers could be undercharging for subscription products
Subscriber satisfaction will vary from one publisher’s product to the next, but high overall satisfaction levels suggest some publishers should consider if their audiences would pay more for their products. Raising prices comes with inherent risks in terms of triggering churn, and many publishers believe raising subscription prices now is a risky move. Nevertheless, publishers with highly-satisfied subscribers should consider if they’re leaving money on the table by underpricing their products.
Research was conducted by Toolkits and National Research Group, a global research and insights firm that works with the world’s largest content creators and marketers. The study surveyed 2,509 U.S. consumers aged 18-64 and was conducted in August 2022. Participants were selected to be nationally representative (based on most recent US census data) in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and income.