Read James Hewes’ intro for the latest Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot

Welcome to the Q3 2020 edition of the Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot!

We are delighted to present the latest edition of this widely anticipated report in association with our partners CeleraOne, as we have done since the very start. We work closely with them in compiling the report and in presenting the key findings at FIPP events throughout the year, most recently at the 2020 FIPP Congress and Digital Innovators’ Summit, which took place in September 2020.

As with our Q2 edition, the dominant theme of this edition is the impact of the coronavirus on the digital subscriptions marketplace, with the full impact of the crisis visible in the figures for the first time.

Most notably, the New York Times has reported that digital subscriptions are now at 5.7m, and while its quarterly growth figure is impressive, it is dwarfed by the astonishing statistic that its digital subscriber numbers have grown by 50% over the same period last year. This incredible growth rate, coming as it does at a time when the NYT already has scale in this area, is extremely encouraging. It should lay to rest any suggestions that paywalls and digital subscriptions represent anything other than the future of our industry. It is also encouraging that other consumer focused newspaper groups, most notable Gannett in the US, have started to reach critical mass in digital subs.

In contrast, it remains a source of disappointment that the magazine industry continues to largely ignore digital subscriptions. This must change in the coming months, as the dramatic collapse in the advertising market (one estimate suggesting it will be down by more than 9% this year) shows that media businesses cannot rely on advertising in times of crisis. Hopefully, reports such as this one, together with the range of webinars, videos and training courses FIPP is running on this subject, will help the magazine industry to move more quickly in this regard.

Recently, we have started adding audio and video streaming services to the report, and it is interesting to note that these are also continuing to grow rapidly, with Netflix adding 10m subscribers this period. The notable exception to this is Apple, which continues to experience difficulties with both its streaming video service and with Apple News+ – there must now be questions as to whether the company really understands content, or if it’s destined simply to be a scale distributor of other companies’ IP.

In a time of great challenge and uncertainty for the whole of the publishing industry, this report should come as a ray of hope. It shows that consumers do recognise the value of our content and that, increasingly, they are prepared to pay for it. Long may that continue.

Download the Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot 2020 Q3 here.

See the virtual launch of the report, with Tamedia and CeleraOne, here.

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