It wasn’t that long ago that legacy media brands were written off as anachronisms that couldn’t hack the digital transition.
But in the last few years traditional media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have come back with a vengeance through—you guessed it—a surge in digital subscriptions.
Is this proof positive that in the age of “fake news,” there is a growing flight to quality news outlets?
It sure seems that way.
From 2016-2017, digital subscribers at the Times grew 500,000, to 2.6 million. Subscription revenues grew 7.5 percent, to $260.6 million, offsetting the 3.4 percent decline in ad sales.
Digital subscribers at the Journal rose 200,000, to 1.7 million, from 2016-2017, while digital subscribers for the august New Yorker increased 250,000, to 1.1 million, during the same period.
As corporate communications executives and their agencies handicap the media landscape—and look to maximize their messaging—they need to rethink whether it’s wise to prioritize digital native sites whose hype hasn’t exactly lived up to the reality.
Traditional media outlets are also increasing their appeal with younger news consumers.
For years, the narrative surrounding millennial news consumers was that they wouldn’t dare pay for online content.
But it turns out millennials are cool with paid content.
Between 2016 and 2017, the share of Americans ages 18-24 who paid for online news rose to 18 percent, from 4 percent, according to Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Among Americans ages 25-34, paid subscribers rose to 20 percent, from 8 percent
Bots and ad blockers are having an increasingly deleterious effect on social media platforms and web sites.
So despite the constant chorus about living in a 280-character world, more smart money seems to be betting on legacy media brands whose audiences consist of a pretty good share of C-level execs and decision-makers.
Sure, print newspapers may not be long for this life. But establishment media brands which made their fortunes in print are showing real progress in monetizing their digital assets and are investing with the intention to be viable well into the future.
– Matthew Schwartz
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