The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released the 2023 installment of its “Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions” report on Tuesday. Based on a survey of 303 media executives across 53 markets, the report explores the trends and themes expected to shape the global media landscape in the coming year.
This year’s report included a handful of key takeaways for subscription publishers, including:
Subscriptions are a revenue priority
Publishers said they will increasingly invest in subscription and membership models in 2023, with 80% of survey respondents identifying subscriptions as a revenue priority for the year, ahead of both display and native advertising and up from 74% in 2020. Despite the ongoing squeeze on consumer spending, 68% of respondents said they expect their subscription revenue to grow this year.
Subscriber retention will be prioritized over growth
The consensus among respondents was that the year will be characterized by the retention of existing subscribers, rather than adding of new ones. Publishers with more mature subscription businesses believe they have a secure base on which to build, and hope to fuel some ongoing growth with special offers and by bundling more premium value such as newsletters and events.
More standalone subscription products are expected
As we’ve covered previously, a growing number of publishers – particularly those in the “news” category – have been unbundling subscription features and offering them as standalone products designed to service the needs of more granular segments of their audience. The New York Times is the poster child for this approach, and it now offers an array of subscription products including Cooking, Games and The Athletic, (Those products are also available to purchase as a bundle, of course.) Other publishers say they’ll be looking to emulate this playbook by developing premium product extensions (like Games, Cooking, and Podcasts) and buying other successful subscription publishers that already have traction in specific niches.
Price cuts and discounted offers are here to stay
As we’ve documented over the past year, discounted subscription offers have become standard practice for publishers looking to attract new subscribers, largely because consumers have been trained to expect them. Respondents said they expect such offers to remain in 2023, despite efforts by many publishers to extract greater revenues from their subscriber bases. They also expect discounts to play a central part of their subscriber retention efforts.
Journalistic values and key issues will take center stage
Competing on price alone is proving less effective than it has in recent years, which is driving more publishers to orient their product messaging around their editorial missions and the quality of their journalism. The report predicts that a growing number of publishers will attempt to demonstrate subscription value by highlighting their coverage of more specific issues and topics, such as the war in Ukraine and the climate change emergency.