Telegraph Premium paid content model starts strong

By Ella Wilks-Harper

City University of London

London, United Kingdom


The Telegraph debuted its Telegraph Premium paid content model in November, giving subscribers exclusive content. So far, the model is going well, Chris Taylor, chief information officer at The Telegraph, told an audience of media executives at the Big Data for Media Week conference in London on Friday.

“It is early days for Telegraph Premium, and it is difficult to draw conclusions — though there are positive indications,” Taylor said. 

Chris Taylor, chief information officer at The Telegraph, shares early results of the Telegraph Premium paid content model, which debuted in November.
Chris Taylor, chief information officer at The Telegraph, shares early results of the Telegraph Premium paid content model, which debuted in November.

The Telegraph remains the largest media broadsheet in the United Kingdom and was the first newspaper online in 1994. Taylor’s talk covered the data-driven business route that The Telegraph has adapted, showing the audience an introductory video with a poignant quote that outlined the current tough climate facing media companies: “It can take 20 years to build a reputation and 20 seconds to lose it.” 

“What we have found when growing the broad portfolio is as you grow and want to continue to flourish, you need a digital strategy to accelerate, but ensuring each part does not cut across one another,” Taylor said. “Acknowledging that that was necessary, the best first step was looking at the data and using it to segment our next steps.” 

The Telegraph focused its attention on using premium content to boost its business. Premium content can be found across its sections, however Taylor notes that there is a balancing act when it comes to using such content:

“We actual have to manage and keep a close eye on multiple factors. We have to be clear about the percentage of articles being premium and what isn’t, when should we dial it up or down. To ensure we can sustain a long-term business, we are in events, we have scale advertising businesses, we have branded content, we have financial businesses in travel, and we have a digital subscriptions.” 

Currently, anonymous users only get a taste of The Telegraph’s content, Taylor said: “If you are not a subscriber, you experience a paywall, and there is quite an art form in how much you show the article.” 

How is premium content managed? 

  • Rule engine based story type and author.
  • Clear premium classification: yes or no.
  • Flexible rules that are reviewed monthly, which can be overridden by the portal team. 

Taylor explained that The Telegraph is continuously testing its metrics and ensuring its journalists remain at the center. “We let journalists fall back on their instinct,” he said. 

Taylor went on to discuss how The Telegraph is honing its attention on major stories. When looking at these larger stories, “We go into quite a lot of detail looking at the total audience volume, the aspects that lead to subscription,” he said. “We do those pieces which we can’t practically do for every story, and it allows us to enrich the general analytics and hopefully leads to better decision-making.” 

The current results of using premium content show positive indications:  

  • Clarity of strategy and purpose has led to coherent and swift digital decision-making.
  • Clear role and purpose for each digital product has facilitated tighter, data-focused product management.
  • Subscription acquisition is up significantly compared to the previous meter-based model.

Taylor finished the talk with this confident summary: “Most importantly, we have not seen a decline since introducing premium content. As a consequence of adopting this strategy, our broader audience has remained robust.”

About Ella Wilks-Harper

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