Get a demo Do I subscribe? News sign-up
Download PDF
Print

Quality newspapers tap digital subs

News, 06 February 2017
Topics

NEW YORK: Political uncertainty and fake news are driving consumers back to news brands they feel they can trust, new figures suggest.

President Trump, himself the purveyor of statements of questionable accuracy, recently tweeted that someone should buy the "FAKE NEWS and failing" New York Times, only for the title to point out it was at an all-time high in terms of subscribers and audience.

It reported that it had added a net 276,000 new digital subscribers in the fourth quarter alone; it now has 1.85m digital subscribers and more than 3m in print and online in total.

Those figures have helped it reduce its reliance on advertisers, as print ad revenues plummeted during 2016 and weren't offset by the rise in digital ad revenues.

Speaking to CNBC, CEO Mark Thompson attributed at least some of the increase in subscriptions to the president.

"It's Donald Trump, but also it's a bigger story about political controversy and division in this country and across the Western world," he said. "It's Brexit. It's an uncertain Europe. It's a world which feels both politically and economically very unstable."

Similar motivations have boosted the Guardian's membership program: numbers have gone from 15,000 to 200,000 in the past year, helped by marketing messages that saw sign-ups spike during the EU referendum and the US election campaign.

"Research we have done with the US audience has shown they value that outsider and global perspective we bring to the media landscape and our liberal values," Natalie Hanman, executive editor of membership at the Guardian, told Digiday.

The title has set itself an ambitious goal of reaching 1m paying subscribers by 2019.

In world where "naked and reckless falsehoods" are being spread by politicians, Thompson argued that one of the jobs of titles like the New York Times is not simply to report the news but also "to point out to the public that statements which have come from the president and the White House are not actually true".

Advertisers find themselves having to tread a careful path to avoid potentially alienating large numbers of consumers, but a growing number are prepared to exclude Breitbart, the alt-right site previously run by the president's chief strategist, from their media plan.

The Independent reported that 818 companies, including major names like Kellogg, BMW, Visa, T-Mobile, Nordstrom and Lufthansa, have pledged to take this action.

Data sourced from CNBC, Digiday, The Independent; additional content by Warc staff

Topics