digital subscriber demographic

The Digital Subscriber Demographic

Liam Handford | March 25th, 2019

All major publishers are fighting for digital subscribers, despite subscriptions still falling behind print numbers. Digital isn’t a short term strategy, and the demographic breakdown proves it.

The demographic of 18-34 year olds dominates the digital subscriber base, as proven by the American Press Institute:

digital magazine demographic


Print is still leading in subscriptions, but the stark reality is that the younger generation are adapting to digital much faster. Generation X or the over 50’s are sticking largely to traditional print subscriptions. Further data from the American Press Institute also shows that 1 in 3 digital subscribers are recent acquisitions, while most print subscribers are long-term customers of at least 1-5 years.

The data also shows different motivations behind print and digital subscribers, and different use-cases. Digital subscribers are more likely to access their content multiple times a day, and engage with the publisher across different digital mediums like social. No surprise really that the younger digital demographic is more agile in their digital behaviours.

This is why digital is at the centre of most publication’s subscription strategy – Print is still leading the pack, but the conversion to a digital-first subscriber-base is an inevitability.

Preparing For The Digital Future

Publishers have been scrambling for years now to force digital to work for them, jumping from one ‘the next big thing’ to the NEXT ‘next big thing’ – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Video, now Podcasts. Bo Sacks said it best very recently:

We have to honestly accept that continuing transformation is now a permanent state of being.

Bo Sacks

But beyond embracing new platforms and mediums, publishers are increasingly doing their bit to foster the digital subscribers of the future, through trying to get consumers to build news-reading habits early, and educating on the importance of high quality content.

The New York Times are a great example of a publisher sticking to their core values, the very things that make them unique, while still being flexible enough to experiment and thrive with digital. They also look far ahead to the future landscape of digital subscribers, planting the seed by giving away subscriptions for free to students in hopes they’ll grow to be paying subscribers in years to come. So far they provide free NYT subscriptions to over 3 million American students, and offer it at a discounted ‘Academic rate’ to students around the world – for example £1 a week in the UK.

Longterm strategy’s like this will in time determine which big publishers remain as relevent institutions of journalism, and which are destined to constantly struggle to find the magic bullet to the problems they face with the split between print and digital.

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