January 23, 2017 | Authored by: Kevin Cancilla
Why relevant content is more important than ever
Established news organizations saw a spike in subscriptions after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, proving customers want content that is accurate, easily accessible and high quality. According to a press release from The New York Times, the newspaper added 41,000 paid subscriptions to its print and digital products within a week of Nov. 8. The publication's web traffic spiked not just on the day of the election but the two following days as well, and people spent five times longer on the website than average. As of Nov. 15, the number of new New York Times subscriptions for the quarter was more than 100,000.
Other publications saw similar developments. According to MarketWatch, nonprofit news site ProPublica received over $250,000 in one-time credit card donations. Comparatively, it collected $300,000 through all of its payment methods in 2015. Meanwhile, according to Neiman Lab, subscriptions to The Atlantic increased 160 percent after the election. Sales of physical copies grew 14 percent, while the percent of online visitors purchasing subscriptions doubled.
What subscription services can learn
It's evident from these numbers that people crave accessible, reliable content. As New York Times CEO Mark Thompson pointed out, focusing on quality is a profitable business model, especially for companies that use subscription billing.
"Our newsroom did exceptional work throughout the campaign and they have continued to provide our readers with penetrating and comprehensive coverage of the incoming administration," Thompson said in the press release. "The result has been record-breaking audiences and tens of thousands of new subscribers - clear evidence of how much public demand there is for high quality, deeply reported, independent journalism."
Still, because fake news reports were so widely shared throughout the election, one could make the argument that poorly crafted, irrelevant content is a lucrative business model. After all, according to BuzzFeed News, fake stories garnered more engagement on Facebook than established outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. However, it's important to note that engagements aren't new subscribers. What's more, these fake websites make their money primarily from ad revenue. As a separate BuzzFeed article pointed out, pay-per-click advertising is quickly becoming less profitable in the U.S.
When one looks at the increase in reputable news outlet subscriptions and compares this business model to how fake news sites acquire revenue, it's clear that providing relevant, quality content leads to greater profits for businesses using a subscription management model.
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