Research: Cable-style news bundles spread across Europe

By Greg Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


In this newsletter, I reveal new INMA research on subscription bundles and interview a retention guru about news publishers’ biggest mistake.

If you have questions or suggestions, e-mail me today at or meet me in person in New York around the INMA World Congress of News Media.

Cable-style subscription bundles aim at attracting diverse audiences, growing profits, and fending off competitors

Publishers in five European markets introduced cable-style subscription bundles that include national and local news, magazines, podcasts, video, and other benefits. If this model works, the innovation will likely spread globally.

This strategy differs from traditional bundling practices in the news industry, which mainly focus on adding content and features to the flagship products. Other media sectors, such as cable and paid satellite television providers, have long relied on bundles as a key driver of market expansion and profitability. 

By offering customers a package of products at a fixed price, news publishers can generate revenue from a broad range of services and effectively leverage economies of scale. This model allows companies to increase subscription rates and expand their subscriber base by catering to diverse consumer preferences. Bundles may also lock customers in, serving needs beyond information, and hold off competitors struggling to match the bundle’s offering. 

So far though, in almost all 46 countries surveyed by Oxford’s Reuters Institute in 2022, the majority of online subscribers paid for only one publication.

Cable-style bundles: In the past year, the leading publishers in Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Sweden launched mega-bundles, and their peers in other countries are watching closely. 

  • Poland: In late 2022, Ringier Axel Springer launched Onet Premium, bundling national and foreign news, lifestyle magazines, podcasts, video, and language courses.

  • Norway: Schibsted offered Full Tillgang (All Access), bundling tabloid and quality news, national and local news, business news and advice, a news aggregator app, and podcasts.

  • Sweden: In early 2023, Bonnier released +Allt (+All), bundling its two national brands and 40+ local ones, as well as magazines and puzzles. Schibsted responded soon with its own Swedish bundle.

  • Belgium: In its Digi Plus bundle, Mediahuis offered national and local brands, magazines, and podcasts.

  • Netherlands: DPG Media added Uit Andere Media (From Other Media): a bundle of 11 national and local newspapers, lifestyle and entertainment verticals, podcasts, and puzzles.

INMA analysed seven super-bundles and found the number of brands packaged together varied from five to 90, with a median of 11. All bundles included national news, and all but two included local news. All offered podcasts, and all but one offered video content. 

Most bundled brands were published by the same groups, although two publishers also offered licensed content from partners, e.g., international brands. One publisher sold its brands only in a bundle, others let readers choose whether to bundle or buy brands separately.

All publishers offered discounted trials. When comparing post-trial monthly subscription prices of the bundles to those of the flagship brands alone, the bundles cost from 50% to 230% more, 118% more on average.

Rebundling the news: Some of the bundlers told INMA they were inspired by the cable business. National news executives looked up to The New York Times (launched a bundle in 2021). And local news executives envied the success of Norway’s Amedia (launched in 2020).

They were pioneers. A 2022 study by INMA revealed that among the top 50 news subscription brands, a significant 96% incorporated additional benefits into their news products, enhancing the value proposition. However, only 32% bundled their news products with standalone or non-news products, reaching beyond the needs of the core readership.

Differently than most of its peers, the growth of The New York Times is increasingly driven by non-news products. Subscriptions to Games, Cooking, or Wirecutter made 33% of all subscriptions to The Times in 4Q 2022 and 69% of new additions, per the financial report.

The Times found its bundle customers were more engaged than the single-product customers, generated higher ARPU, and churned less. The Times’s digital strategy is following the footsteps of its print era expansion, as it grew circulation in the 1970s with new sections appealing to non-news readers.

Amedia launched its +Alt (+All) add-on offer to local brand subscribers in 2020 as an option to check on friends and family locked down during the pandemic in other regions. A whopping 170,000 (26%) of all 660,000 subscribers tried the bundle for free. 

A year later, 140,000 kept paying for the bundle. Amedia’s Ole Werring told INMA that all 73 participating local newspapers increased their revenue thanks to +Alt, and the offer “contributed significantly” to the company’s bottom line.

Interested in bundling? Learn from The New York Times’ and Schibsted’s case studies at the INMA World Congress of News Media in New York on May 24-26. Click here to register.

Focus on data and current subscribers, rather than research on non-subscribers, hinders publishers’ growth

Growing subscriptions requires more than clicks. It requires understanding who our reader wants to be as a person, says author Rob Skrob in an interview with INMA.

Rob, who wrote the bestselling book The Retention Point, made a case for a chief subscription officer at a recent INMA conference and will do a master class for INMA in onboarding new subscribers. In between these events, I spoke to him.

Greg Piechota, INMA: You attended our Media Subscription Summit in Stockholm in March. What do you think is the most common mistake publishers make that slows down growth?

Rob Skrob, author: The key mistake I see with news publishers, which hinders their ability to build reader-focused revenue, is not attempting to build relationships with readers. 

In the past, when news media were mostly ad supported, they had many advertising representatives who built relationships with potential clients. Some specialised in the local auto repair shops, others in real estate agents, or in furniture shops, and their primary job was to meet the customers, understand their needs, and tailor offers to grow ad revenue. 

However, with the shift to reader revenue, publishers lack a corresponding apparatus for building relationships with readers. 

INMA: Why do you think that? Editors are staring all day at dashboards and studying what readers click on.

Rob Skrob: Data doesn’t give you the full picture because only a small proportion of your subscribers and your potential market is clicking. Many subscribers actually don’t click that much, but yet they still might value their subscription. Relationships are what counts. And to grow the business, publishers need to understand the needs and motivations of those who do not click, or subscribe, as much as those who do. 

INMA: How would you envision a reader representative role?

Rob Skrob: The key is listening more. We need to go out to readers and learn about their needs, make them feel seen and understood.

If we do it, we will realise that there is not one reader but likely many types of readers. There is a business owner, a politician, a pensioner, a student, and they all have different mindsets and try to accomplish different things. 

With todays technology, we can meet people online, e-mail them, or use countless other tools to foster a connection. Then we need to tailor journalism and experience to the needs of readers, and make the subscription more than just an exchange of articles for money. 

INMA: OK. I hear that publishers focus too much on user data and too little on user research, and too much on subscribers and too little on non-subscribers. 

Rob Skrob: What I am advocating is a mindset change: Rather than focusing on ourselves and what we produce, we shall focus on our readers and their needs.

In general, people are busy and overwhelmed. They don’t need more content. Every hour, there is more content uploaded to YouTube than any of us can watch for the rest of our lives. 

INMA: So, why would you subscribe to the news?

Rob Skrob: Well, you would subscribe because it’s helping you become a person you want to be. It makes you feel connected to the community. It makes you feel like you know what’s going on. It helps you feel seen and valued.

I am afraid that after 30 years of digital disruption and transformation, and endless cost cutting in the media, many readers may feel left behind. They found pieces of what they used to get in their favourite newspaper — connection, inspiration, recognition — somewhere else.

Growing subscriptions requires more than clicks and data. It requires understanding who our reader wants to be as a person. When we realise that, we will change our journalism, our products, and our marketing.

INMA: What should publishers do once they understand readers needs and get them to subscribe?

Rob Skrob: They should build the relationship, and the most powerful strategy is a seven-day e-mail onboarding sequence. This helps improve retention and trial conversion rates.

Instead of e-mail, you can do in-app demos, educational videos, or send welcome kits by post, but e-mail is the simplest tool, easiest to measure and quickest to implement. 

During the onboarding, you want to prove to new subscribers they made the right choice. You want to get them up to speed with the conversations in the community. You want to tell them about useful features that they likely never heard about. You want to show them who else is subscribing. And based on what you know about churn reasons, such as being too busy to read, you want to flip those into reasons to stay, for example, by showing how you can save their time. 

INMA: How should publishers adapt their subscription strategy to the current economic climate?

Rob Skrob: This climate should be a wake-up call that the digital strategies of the last 30 years arent working. We cannot be paid by the click anymore. Publishers need to make the mental leap from ad-supported thinking to reader-supported thinking. In Stockholm, I saw publishers who made that jump, and after a few years of pain they saw the focus on reader relationships not only paying off in subscription success but helping with advertising too.

Want to master Rob’s seven-day e-mail onboarding sequence? Join the virtual INMA Subscriber Growth Master Class on June 8-29. Click here to register.

About this newsletter

Today’s newsletter is written by Grzegorz “Greg” Piechota, INMA’s researcher-in-residence and lead for the Readers First Initiative. In his letters, Greg shares original research, analysis, and best practices in growing reader revenue.

E-mail Greg at, message him on Slack, meet him at the next online meet-up or in person at the INMA Media Subscription Summit in March. 

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