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Product features, not content, are most-touted benefit of digital subscriptions

By Grzegorz Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


Product features — such as apps, e-replicas of print edition, access to archives, or premium newsletters — are the most frequent benefits found in digital subscription offers in 33 countries. 

I analysed for INMA 224 value propositions of national news outlets selling subscriptions or memberships in 33 countries that include the biggest markets in Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. I collected the data in February 2020. 

This is my second study of subscription benefits across the world. The first one, which I did in 2018 for the Oxford’s Reuters Institute, included 128 national news outlets. 

The 2020 study shows publishers listed product features more frequently than editorial content benefits, while the opposite was observed in 2018.

  • Product features (such as apps, e-replicas, access to archives, newsletters, comments or puzzles) were listed as benefits of 86% basic digital subscriptions in 2020.
  • Content benefits (such as premium articles, or access to verticals, magazines, or multi-media) were listed by 76% of outlets in their offers.
  • 32% publishers listed non-news offers, such as discounts, gifts, contests or third-party subscriptions, as benefits.
  • 16% news sites offered a premium user experience, for example, no or limited ads on the site or in an app.
  • 11% outlets offered multi-user accounts, for example, ability to share a subscription or paywalled articles with family and friends. 

Among the product features, the most frequent by occurrence were mobile and tablet apps; 63% of 224 news outlets listed them as benefits of basic digital subscription.

  • Half, or 48%, of outlets offered e-replicas of print edition.
  • 23% listed premium newsletters as subscriber benefits.
  • 21% featured access to archives.
  • 10% emphasised community and social features, such as ability to add comments, access private groups on social media, etc.
  • 7% publishers included non-news features, such as puzzles, crosswords, and games.

Banner image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

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