Light readers represent the strongest growth path for subscription-mature news media companies, yet the audience segment described as “casual,” “infrequent,” and “picky” requires deeper study, according to a new report released today by the International News Media Association (INMA).
Written by INMA Readers First Initiative Lead Greg Piechota, “Light Readers: Digital Subscriptions’ Next Growth Path” reveals new patterns in reader revenue during the pandemic, the emergence of product and marketing tactics to attract light readers, insights into casual buyers across consumer industries, and a re-sizing of the subscription opportunity ahead.
Piechota labels 2020 as “the year of subscriptions” and 2021 as “the year of the light readers.” By the end of last year, publishers had successfully acquired and retained readers who were brand-loyal and fans, enhanced by people looking to navigate the pandemic. While these remain priority readers, the new growth path has shifted to light readers who require longer trials and habituation development.
In addition to his original research, Piechota brings in case studies from Aftenposten in Norway and U.S. publishers such as The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
Among the 46-page report’s key takeaways are:
- Content that engages light readers also engages heavy readers — but not the other way around.
- Engaging new subscribers within the first 100 days has a direct correlation with retaining them.
- Casual readers need to have a window to content. “Hop-on, hop-off” readers must be embraced.
- Engagement loops work better than the traditional funnel.
The new report is part of the INMA Readers First Initiative, which aims to surface global best practices in the art and science behind digital subscriptions for news media companies. The initiative produces newsletters, Slack channel interactions, video meet-ups, reports, Webinars, workshops, and one-on-one Ask Me Anything sessions for INMA members worldwide.
“The focus on light readers is one of the priorities of the Readers First Initiative, now in its third year,” said Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA. “This meticulously researched report brings together the beginnings of a playbook for publishers seeking the next growth path for digital subscriptions. Light readers represent a segment not well understood by news-hungry publishers and editors who often are more like a brand’s super fans.”
Piechota is a researcher-in-residence in INMA and the lead of the association’s Readers First Initiative. An ex-fellow at Oxford and Harvard universities, he studied technology-enabled patters across industries with a focus on business model innovation in news media. He is a former media executive with 20+ years of industry experience, notably Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza. Piechota has served on the INMA Board of Directors and president of the association’s European Division.
“Light Readers: Digital Subscriptions’ Next Growth Path” is available for free to INMA members and may be purchased by non-members. Go to www.INMA.org/reports to download or purchase.