When CNHI launched its digital subscription model mid-2013, it learned people will pay for content they value, Matthew Ispan, executive vice president at Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., said at the recent INMA Business Strategies 2020 Conference in Chicago.

The challenge, of course, is to create content audiences will value.

“We realised that the business model is changing,” Ispan said. As we saw consumer growth on subscriptions grow, we realised it was no longer going to be a business model subsidised strictly by advertising.

CNHI, which has 68 daily news sites, chose one to be the test site for the digital subscription trial. That trial was so successful, the company launched another 20 just three months later. Within 18 months, the digital subscription offer was in at all 68 sites.

“We really try to come up with offerings that the audience and our readership and our communities want the most, and that’s how we approach our entire digital subscription thought process,” he said.

Ispan sees very too little testing in the industry surrounding digital subscriptions. 

Say you have a high school sports magazine that’s really succesful. Put a pricetag on it. Sell it at the local convenience store. Go talk to people. Would you buy this? At what price point?

Take that feedback you’re getting from the consumer, and can you continue to create and ideate and come up with a product they will value and pay for? I don’t think as a whole the industry is doing enough of that across the board to really understand what is our opportunity and what are some products that will not be valued by the subscriber or reader to pay for. We need to do more testing.