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Paying for Digital News: The rapid adoption and current landscape of digital subscriptions at U.S. newspapers

Mar 02, 2016
Industry trends

By Alex Williams, American Press Institute

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Newspaper publishers in the United States have moved rapidly in recent years to create subscriptions for digital access to their news, and according to an in-depth analysis the landscape is converging around a couple leading models and price structures.

As the traditionally dominant revenue streams of print and advertising come under pressure, almost all newspapers are looking to their readers to contribute more. As of 2015, 77 of the 98 papers we examined have some form of a digital subscription plan that requires readers to pay for unlimited online access.

Seventy-one of those 77 have been launched within the past 5 years.

This exponential growth would have seemed unfathomable in 2009. Publications like The Guardian, The New York Times, Time Magazine and The Atlantic published op-eds questioning whether readers would be willing to pay for news online — and whether digital subscriptions would cause steep losses in readership and digital advertising.

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