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    Subscriptions Prove Resilient Against Covid19 Impacts

    Ali Gordon | Industry Analysis | 13th October 2020
    Subscriptions Prove Resilient Against Covid19 Impacts

    Over the weekend, the World Health Organization reported a record single-day increase in global cases of COVID-19, just days after President Trump and over 35 White House aides, visitors, and residents also tested positive for the virus. At the epicenter of the pandemic, the United States is seeing second-wave surges of infections and hospitalizations in over half the country as cold weather begins to hit.

     Industries worldwide have also felt the tremendous effects of the deadly disease, but not all of the impacts have been so tragic. In fact, media and entertainment businesses have seen subscriptions-based revenue remain steady--and even grow by triple digits in some places like the UK during the COVID19 outbreak. The success of the subscription model during a time of global upheaval unrivaled in the last 100 years demonstrates a resiliency that bodes well for the future of subscriptions, even after the pandemic has ended.

     

    Subscription resilience found in the model's adaptability - regardless of company size.

     
    Figure 9: Impact of COVID-19 on Subscription and Advertising RevenueDespite a decrease in traditional publisher events and advertising that has led to widespread layoffs, mergers, and business challenges, the industry has seen 
    subscriptions remain a reliable, resilient source of revenue. The success of subscriptions is partly due to the downtime more readers have to enjoy a broader range of entertainment and media offerings, but also because of the adaptability of the model. Businesses across the globe found subscriptions to be more flexible and responsive to new needs and challenges presented by the pandemic.

    In comparison to overall and advertising revenue, subscription revenue was less affected and is continuing to recover faster. Adweek’s recent report, “Combined Revenue Models Gaining Traction in Media Industry” found that, “Subscription revenue has buffered the negative effects on publishing revenue...Most strikingly, only 33% of  publishers report a decrease in subscription revenue as a result of COVID-19, versus the whopping  73% of publishers that have seen a decrease in advertising revenue.”  

    Creative subscription structures ensure resilience.

    Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative reported early in the pandemic, “Mark Katches, Executive Editor of the Tampa Bay Times, said his news outlet was one of the first to move virus stories outside its paywall. Despite the ability to read those stories without paying, people are buying digital subscriptions at double or triple the usual rate.”

    A need for accurate, quality news content has proven even more essential during a global crisis, driving many readers to pay subscriptions for brands they may not have invested in before. Consumer data expert, Statista, found, “The coronavirus outbreak has caused media consumption to increase in countries across the globe, with book reading and audiobook listening up by 14 percent, social media usage seeing an increase of 21 percent, and news consumption rising by 36 percent.” 

    Media companies have been able to adapt paywalls and utilize other creative approaches in their subscriber structures to meet diverse audience needs for content--leading to increased subscriber responsiveness.

    And that’s not limited to major publications like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Insider--all of which have seen sustained subscriptions growth during the year. 

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    Subscriptions empower small companies too.

    Smaller readerships that have also been able to leverage increased digital traffic and audience needs to their advantage through adaptable subscription models have seen success parallel to that of larger publications during the pandemic. 

    Midway through the year after the first major peak of the pandemic, Tech Crunch reported, “In this era, the healthiest publications tend to have a subscription component...But not all subscription publications that are succeeding are large….Indeed, thanks to a growing set of publisher-friendly subscription services, there are a number of options in the market for supporting publications as small as a single author…[and] other startups are competing in the space, helping publications derive more income directly from readers.” 

    These findings prove consistent with the aforementioned Adweek report, which concluded: “While this increased acceptance of media subscription models among consumers was likely underway  before COVID-19, the pandemic has served to accelerate the trend.” 

    Like so many other trends, we’ve seen that the rise of subscriptions was strong enough to withstand an uncertain climate, suggesting that when the world returns to a version of normal, the trendline will follow the same path.

    Our services have offered solutions that empower more media businesses to grow readerships from digital subscriptions, and such adaptable subscription structures and solutions are making the model a resilient and sustainable revenue stream for companies of all sizes. 

    Resilient subscriptions services strengthen long-term success.

    The most successful companies are the ones pairing adaptable subscription models with forward-thinking services. Kevin Westcott, vice chairman at Deloitte LLP a U.S. telecom, media and entertainment leader said,  "Many media and entertainment companies have seen subscribers and users grow, both before and since COVID-19 began. The streaming wars were already in full force, with consumers having lots of options. But with less money to spend, the competition for consumer attention and retention has never been fiercer. Media companies that deliver the best value for money, provide exclusive content, and have strong libraries that continue to engage subscribers can lead for the next decade." 

    Adweek’s report outlining the promise of combined revenue models demonstrates that upwards of a hundred media executives agree with Westcott. For more insight into what executives are doing to shore up revenue now and in the months to come, download the report below. 

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