Posted in Industry Insights

Survey offers revealing look at news subscribers

, by Lauren Easton

A new study by the Media Insight Project, a joint effort by the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, reveals what motivates readers to pay for news, offering publishers insight into the new media landscape.

The survey of more than 4,100 recent newspaper subscribers shows that quality and accuracy matter to nearly all of them, especially after they subscribe. While the group does not necessarily represent all recent newspaper subscribers, the study includes subscribers to 90 different newspapers across the U.S.

Dwayne Lewis reads a local newspaper covering the death of Gregg Allman, June 3, 2017, in Macon, Georgia. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

It also identifies key differences between print and digital subscribers. Namely, the latter tend to be younger, male and more educated than print readers, and are more often attracted by good coverage of a particular topic and by especially useful or interesting content.

“The study makes clear that subscribers value quality and are often motivated by a desire to access local and topical news, which suggests that cutbacks in newsrooms might make it harder for newspapers to reach and retain subscribers in the future,” said Emily Swanson, AP polling editor.

Key findings include:

  • Half of digital subscribers are triggered to subscribe by hitting a paywall and are more likely than print readers to be motivated by wanting to support local journalism.
  • Many who subscribe are triggered by discounts and promotions, when they are offered at the right time.
  • New subscribers to small papers are more likely than those at large metro papers to be heavy print users and to subscribe after moving to town. Subscribers to larger papers are more likely to pay for news after noticing a number of interesting articles.
  • Many subscribers began reading the publication before taking the plunge on a subscription, often for months or even a year or more.  

The full report is available online.