With digital going strong, publishers chase global subscribers

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Publishers have seen welcome surges of digital subscribers over the past year. But as some double down on their core markets, others are seeing the potential to attract global subscribers.

The takeaways:
  • The Washington Post’s global subscription business is up 60% from last year. Currently, just 10% of the publisher’s subscriptions are from outside the US, but the goal is to double that.
  • UK publisher The Independent is beginning a global drive after double-digit revenue growth this year. It plans to hire more journalists in its Los Angeles office, as well as growing and launching teams in Delhi, Mumbai, and potentially China.
  • Insider Inc. has launched a news bureau in Singapore with four reporters and a salesperson. This is its second global hub outside of the US. 22 million monthly active users from APAC read Insider Inc; about 10% of its total audience.

Easy expansions: For titles that publish in English, attracting global subscribers is far more straightforward due to the proportion of people around the world who speak English as a primary or secondary language. 

But The Independent is going beyond just English speakers. They have recently announced the launch of Independent en Español, a new website created to serve the Hispanic audience in the United States and other Spanish-speaking markets.

  • There are an estimated 43 million Spanish-speakers in the US alone, many of whom aren’t being catered for by US publications.
The long game:

The Washington Post’s global expansion plan was put into place long before the pandemic. Taking a regionalized approach to marketing, pricing and bundling has helped keep its international subscription business growing, CMO Miki King told Digiday.

  • Small details, like making sure the currency on the page matches the country the user is in, have helped remove friction from the sign-up process.
  • Most of the growth has been targeted at countries that have large English-speaking populations such as the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Programmatic potential: For Insider Inc, the growth of the APAC programmatic ad landscape has been cited as an important reason for the expansion. 

  • In the US, programmatic accounts for 88% of digital ads, but just 36% at present in APAC regions.
  • Insider Inc has been running programmatic campaigns in APAC since May. It has managed to double its programmatic ad revenue year-over-year.

Bundling up: The Washington Post has also been testing bundles and partnerships as a way of reaching global audiences.

  • An introductory bundle deal with the Financial Times which gave mutual discounts for UK and US readers ran for a few weeks in October.
  • The publisher is looking to initiate bundling campaigns with regional publishers in Canada next year.

As the competition to attract subscribers at home heats up, looking further afield to attract global subscribers is a smart move by publishers looking to stay ahead of subscription fatigue and unlock under-served markets.

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