Top 10 INMA articles of 2021 focus on digital subscriptions

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, United States


The theme of this year’s most-read articles on isn’t even subtle: digital subscriptions.

Most of our top-10 articles focus on the topic, directly or indirectly.

Early in the COVID outbreak, many media experts quietly shared this opinion: Media companies that have not started their pivot to a reader revenue business model may not survive.

Those that had started the pivot continued at a faster pace. Those that were dabbling in it really leaned into the quick and impressive increase in digital subscriptions in 2020. Those — and there are many — still relying on advertising have also had to worry about the end of third-party cookies while working on their reader revenue model. Our top-1o articles touch on all of these perspectives.

Disclaimer: These top 10 skip over our Global Media Awards finalists and winners announcements, as well as two award announcements this year — our “30 Under 30 Awards” and Elevate Scholarship winners. While these are in our top-read articles, these 10 better represent INMA’s year in content.

The most-read article of the year by Espen Egil Hansen, the international advisor to JP Politikens Hus, explored how — one year into the pandemic — the financing of journalism had been solved (the reader revenue model) and the industry needed to move on to other challenges: covering polarisation, getting newsrooms onboard with company strategies, and engaging audiences through compelling storytelling.

If you didn’t catch it the first time, it’s worth a read to see how your company is doing in these areas:

1. The financing of journalism solved, let’s move on to 3 bigger problems (by Espen Egil Hansen).

Our second most-read article is by INMA Researcher-in-Residence Greg Piechota, sharing his take on what the delay to the end of third-party cookies means for news publishers. This gives news media companies time to build first-party data strategies — as well as other ad revenue strategies that do not rely on third-party cookies — and continue building their reader revenue models: 

2. Google holds up the Cookie Apocalypse, yet what does it mean for news publishers? (by Greg Piechota).

3. Expressen grew from 0 digital subscribers to 70,000 in 1 year (by Paula Felps).

4. “Sleepers” are the biggest risk to your subscription business (by Greg Piechota).

5. How Wall Street Journal uses metrics and engagement to drive digital subscriptions (by Shelley Seale).

6. Here’s what Google’s big Australian media payment deals mean (by Robert Whitehead).

7. Amedia builds premium news service, gets 120,000 paying subscribers in 8 months (by Pål Nedregotten and Ole Werring).

8. McClatchy CEO shares 5 characteristics of adaptive media companies (by Brie Logsdon).

9. Research points to nurturing light readers (by Greg Piechota).

10. 3 strategic changes are necessary for a consumer-centric business model (by Ken Harding and Justin Eisenband)

In 2020, four of our top-10 articles were COVID specific. Interesting in year two of the pandemic, none of them are — although I consider the focus on reader revenue to be pandemic adjacent. 

As always, I am interested to see what 2022 brings. Of note: We are kicking the year off with a January 12 Webinar featuring INMA President Damian Eales. Eales, global head of transformation for News Corp, will discuss the year ahead in media. You do not want to miss this and it’s free, of course, to INMA members. 

Happy New Year to all our members around the world (this did not make our top-10 list, but I will offer as a shameless promotion that INMA membership now includes 72 corporate members, bringing our total membership to 19,539 members).

Thanks for being one of them!

About Dawn McMullan

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