The State of Digital Subscriptions

At the end of last year, Newsweek announced that it would discontinue its print editions in favor of an all digital approach, highlighting an ongoing debate with the newspaper industry of balancing digital paid subscriptions and free access. Like many other news publications, Newsweek has begun to adopt a metered model, where visitors are not charged unless they want to read more than a certain number of articles per month. The New York Times, which began using a similar system two years ago, attracted about 640,000 paying customers to its digital versions by the end of 2012. And, The New York Times itself recently reported that newspapers around the globe, from The Washington Post to The Straits Times of Singapore, are also embracing paid Web subscriptions.

Because smartphones are always in consumers’ hands, paying particular attention to the mobile experience has hooked digital users of publications like The Wall Street Journal. WSJ’s app includes a full seven-day archive for later reading, full-screen video, market data, stock quotes and a customizable watch list. The Atlantic’s interactive app for iOS has been cited as a key factor for its subscription success. All of the magazine’s print content is available digitally and also gives readers engaging extras tailored for the experience, like a constant stream from, a stunning photography blog, access to news and opinion on, and the ability to easily comment and interact.

Customized content for digital and mobile editions is driving even greater adoption, as shown by The Wall Street Journal’s rapidly growing digital subscriptions. Available on across mobile platforms like Android, BlackBerry and iOS, the financial news outlet has been able to provide much more real-time news through mobile. With a greater focus on frequent updates with its “Now Edition” and videos, digital and mobile formats take advantage of digital capabilities while being complementary to the daily newspaper.

With the recent growth in digital subscriptions, it seems that the Web and easy access through mobile could be a new beginning, not the end, of news publications.