Press+ Study Finds Digital Subscription Prices Rising, Meters Dropping

Publishers offering fewer free reads

Can newspaper publishers shift to a paid online model without giving up traffic and its associated ad revenue? A new release of data from publishing e-commerce platform Press+ suggests they can. 

The company, founded by founded by Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz and now owned by RR Donnelley, studied data from its 400-plus publisher affiliates (including the Tribune Company and McClatchy) and found that online subscription prices are rising and access to free content is declining without any loss of ad revenue. 

Newspapers are clearly growing more comfortable with charging for online access. Between July 2011 and January 2013, the average price of a monthly online subscription rose nearly 40 percent, from $6.66 to $9.26, according to Press+. Meanwhile, the average meter setting—the number of articles that readers can access for free before a paywall goes into effect—dropped by 30 percent between January 2012 and February 2013, from 13 articles to 10 articles, and is continuing to trend downward. Currently, 35 percent of Press+ publishers allow access to five or fewer free articles per month, and just 23 percent allow access to 10 or more articles.

“What we’re seeing is a tide sweeping through the industry of publishers lowering their meters and moving to prices that reflect the true value of their content,” Crovitz said in a statement. “As a result they’re gaining more reader revenue while continuing to retain all their advertising revenue.”