In the age of print, newspapers had a captive audience: they were the gatekeepers of almost all the useful, timely information people needed to understand their world.
The New York Times’ famous tagline, “All the news that’s fit to print,” might just as easily have been, “All the ads that we can sell.” One might have been forgiven for thinking that content was just an excuse to sell you a refrigerator.
Fast forward to the early days of the Internet, and many news companies tried to replicate the ad-driven revenue model online. But, as for so many businesses in the digital age, disruption showed no mercy. By the early 2010s, it was abundantly clear that running a digital newspaper based on ad revenue was financially unsustainable.
Which brings us back to content.
In the year 2020, with major political events, climate change, and a global pandemic all happening at once, it turned out that consumers not only cared about the news — they’re willing to pay for it.
Ok, to be fair, it didn’t take until 2020 for consumers to act on their interests, demonstrating willingness to pay for the highest quality content when and how they wanted to receive it. But this time of chaos certainly served to reinforce and accelerate the trend towards subscriptions — right as ad revenue has continued its precipitous decline.