RR Donnelley's Press+ Reports Trends from Metered News Sites

For Immediate Release




NEW YORK, March 9, 2012…In response to lack of coverage of new efforts to create online circulation revenue streams in the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s digital revenue study issued this week, RR Donnelley’s Press+ reports that its affiliated publishers are increasingly filling their revenue gap through a variety of digital subscription offerings.

“Put simply,” said Press+ co-founder Steven Brill, “reporting on innovations in digital newspaper revenue without reporting on digital subscription revenue is like saying to Mrs. Lincoln, ‘Other than that, how did you like the play?’ There are now 285 Press+ Affiliates deploying all kinds of digital subscription models. That’s a revolutionary change in the last six months, and it’s where the action is.”

The Pew report, “The Search for a New Business Model: How Newspapers are Faring Trying to Build Digital Revenue,” released on March 5, focused on advertising revenues, without analyzing the much faster-growing digital subscription revenues, on the grounds that the study began 16 months ago, before the trend took hold of newspapers launching paid models. One year ago, Press+ had launched fewer than 20 sites, less than a tenth of the number now using the company’s metered model for access.

Press+ reports the following trends based on aggregated data collected from publishers that have launched on its revenue platform:

-Publishers find they can set their meter at a lower point than they originally thought: On average, Press+ Affiliates now allow readers 14 page views for free each month. That average, however, has fallen and continues to fall as publishers see no loss in ad revenue and reach only a small portion of their audience (on average, less than 10%) with the higher meter settings they deploy at launch. “We counsel publishers to start with high meters, ensure that they retain online advertising and online readership, then over time lower the meters to grow subscriptions more quickly,” said co-founder Gordon Crovitz.  Increasingly, publishers are determining their meter settings not by benchmarking themselves against high-profile meter-users such as The New York Times (which gives readers 20 free articles each month) but by deciding what percentage of their online content they want to give away for free.

-Some readers will subscribe before reaching the article threshold: Press+ Affiliates who give readers an option to subscribe immediately before they hit their meter setting, often through a “Subscribe Now” button prominently displayed on their homepages, have significantly higher overall conversion rates. In some cases, up to three times the number of visitors who hit the article limit visit the "Subscribe Now" area, suggesting a significant segment of readers will subscribe to ensure access, even before hitting the limit of the meter.

-Print subscribers are willing to pay: Ninety percent of Press+ Affiliates charge print subscribers an additional fee for full access to the website. Publishers are also finding encouraging results by implementing an "opt-out" print and digital bundle, in which they raise the subscription price by creating a combined print and digital subscription, while giving print subscribers the option of declining the digital product. Papers where the digital subscription represents a 10% price increase on the print product have seen 90% adoption of the digital subscription.

-Average pricing remains below $10/month at most papers: Press+ Affiliates charge on average $6.50/month to digital-only subscribers and an incremental $2.00/month to print subscribers. Data show that print subscribers show little price sensitivity, leading a large number of publishers to begin experimenting with higher pricing.

ABOUT RR Donnelley’s Press+:  Conceived in 2009by media entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, Press+ has hundreds of  newspaper, magazine and online-only affiliates around the world who have launched their paid content initiatives on its revenue platform.  The company was sold to RR Donnelley in 2011, with Brill and Crovitz continuing as co-CEOs.


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Press+ Media Contact: Cindy Rosenthal; 212-332-6406; [email protected]