The Luxury Approach to Newspapers Appears to be Working

WSJSubscriptionPromoIn a December 2012 essay, New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy noted how both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times seemed headed in an elitist digital subscriber direction. This afternoon, he’s back on the same general topic and guess what? It amounts to a “Bit of Good News About Journalism.”

Cassidy reminds that full annual digital subscriptions to these newspapers (once initial promotional rates end) are pricey: $348 for the Wall Street Journal, $455 for the New York Times and $467 for the Financial Times. But for dailies lucky enough to have the right median-income reader and workplace subscriptions base, it seems to be working:

At the Financial Times, the bulk of the company’s revenues now come from digital subscriptions, and the newspaper has been profitable for quite a while. [Spokesperson Rachel] Taub also told me that profits grew in the first half of 2014, driven by a rise in digital revenues. A spokesperson for the Journal wouldn’t comment on its finances, but earlier this month, the newspaper’s corporate sibling, Times Newspapers of the United Kingdom, which publishes the Times and the Sunday Times, recorded its first operating profit in thirteen years. That’s particularly notable because Times Newspapers was one of the first UK publishers to ditch the free-content model. Five years ago, it was losing more than a hundred million dollars a year.

Taub told Cassidy that FT currently has a little over two times as many digital subscribers as it does print. Thought-provoking stuff.

[Editor’s Note: Inset graphic denotes a $395 annual print and digital WSJ subscription. Digital only, as Cassidy writes, is $348 ($28.99 x 12).]