Millennials and the 'Subscription Culture'

23 April 2018



As publishers continue to fine-tune their digital strategies to create sustainable revenue models, some publishers have already identified they need to create a new demand to attract a younger audience in order to future-proof their solution.
Many subscription-focused publishers within the industry are already applying techniques to attract young readers aged 18-24, however, are struggling to turn the paying process into a habitual process for that younger audience. This is because it is not a change that can be applied overnight, content must be adapted, integrated socially and in a tone younger people can relate in order to begin nurturing the habit of subscribing.
There is some good news for publishers…A common misconception is that younger audiences in the 18-24 bracket won’t pay for news content, however research from Reuters Institute Digital News Report shows that the proportion of people willing to pay across age groups is consistent. It is also clear that this age group are willing to pay for subscription model services with the success of Netflix and Spotify. However, the Reuters report highlights the number one issue troubling publishers across the globe, that only 3% of people pay for online news and 54% say the reason they do not pay for news is that they can get it free elsewhere.

The Challenge

The main barrier to attracting younger paying subscribers for publishers seems to be identifying a price point between content that can be accessed for free across social media – which they are used to – and identifying a typical monthly subscription rate that the reader gains added value from and deems worthwhile. The next obstacle for publishers is then winning their limited attention time against the intense competition in the market. Nic Newman, editor of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report expressed every publisher’s main concern on the subject, “The fear is young people aren’t going to grow into the tradition of subscribing”. Some publishers are having an amount of success implementing strategies to attract the young audience, they include The Economist, The Telegraph and The Financial Times.

3 Publisher examples tackling the issue


Over the last two years, The Economist has been tackling the issue by running specific campaigns targeting students. They have directed their efforts into content-led articles and events at universities, tone of voice was the key factor here featuring consistent creative, design and copy, including phrases that the demographic can relate to such as the campaign tagline “Some trends need more than a hashtag”.


The Telegraph has tried a completely different approach, by going straight to social media to acquire a younger audience. They have seen great success within the 18-34 subscriber segment which is their fastest growing audience. According to Robert Bridge, Chief Customer officer at the Telegraph, over the last three months on Snapchat they have reached an “average of 4.9 million users per month,” considering that 33% of the Snapchat audience is aged between 18-24 that could have a significant future impact. Bridge explained that “Snapchat is a brand play over an acquisition play. Our strategy is long-term: encouraging users, when ready, into the next best product — in this case, the app.” Other publishers pursuing the emerging Snapchat audience are The Washington Post, Le Mode and Verdens Gang.


The FT are turning their attention to an even younger audience, offering free access to for all 16-19-year-old school students globally. This strategy is in a hope of turning them into paying subscribers when they leave school and increasing brand awareness within this demographic.
After analysing these examples, it is clear that in order to appeal to a younger audience three key features need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, the platform on which you target them entering their medium and communicating in their tone so readers can relate. Secondly, incorporating social components into the strategy and finally Speed, to appeal to their limited attention spans.
Of course, there are many other components that can be used to attract this audience. Such as adapting content to bitesize, mobile-focused snippets, but ultimately, the entire strategy and the way publishers deliver content to this audience must be re-evaluated.
Bringing these components together enables publishers to reach their target audience with the right messages at the right time in their familiar browsing experiences.
On 3rd May 2018 Ben Edwards, SVP Business Development is presenting a free webinar on discussing this subject. More details can be found here
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