It’s a well-worn truism in the Subscription Economy, but one that I never get tired of repeating: if you’re not offering something valuable and convenient, you’re asking for customers to move elsewhere. But even if you’re offering ease of access and quality, but you’re refusing to bite the bullet on payment, you’ve still got a problem.
This is not some impossible Catch-22, however. In February last year, News Corp Australia announced a 23% growth in digital subscriptions; its broadsheet national paper The Australian attracted two thirds of its readers online. In August 2021, the trend persisted; there was a further 25% subscriber growth across News Corp Australia’s mastheads.
A major part of The Australian’s subscriber growth can be linked to their hugely popular true crime series. The podcasts have won global audiences, a Gold Walkley Award and have helped to revive a 38-year-old murder cold case. Investigative journalist Hedley Thomas’ podcasts alone have been downloaded more than 50 million times and he’s just launched his third installment, Shandee’s Story.
News Corp’s major news media competitor in Australia, Nine (previously Fairfax Media) has also had enormous success with thoroughly researched podcasts like Phoebe’s Fall. Their investigative reporters such as Kate McClymont in Sydney and Nick McKenzie in Melbourne are among the best in the region.
While it’s true that these podcasts are free, they lead to subscriptions, and in many cases, those who subscribe to a related masthead – News Corp’s The Australian, for example – receive podcast extras and advantages. The point is that people are enticed by and will subscribe to high-quality content, whether that takes the form of TV shows, digital news or investigative audio stories. The common denominator is outstanding journalism; those media outlets that invest in it are being rewarded via increased subscriber loyalty.
There are examples from across the world, as well. The New York Times in the United States and The Telegraph in the United Kingdom are demonstrating the robustness of subscriber models just like News Corp and Nine in Australia. Both Australian mastheads place enormous importance on editorial content and are reaping the rewards through very significant and sustained subscriber growth.