How UK Newspaper Subscriptions Stack Up

Subscriptions have rocketed pay-TV businesses like BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), are kickstarting movie services like Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and are set to revolutionise the music business.

Publishers want a piece of the action, too. But how well are they faring?

To find out, I’ve crunched January 2011 and earlier *ABC* circulation data for pre-paid non-postal subscriptions – that’s vouchers readers get from papers, including from publishers’ new direct-to-consumer subscription schemes like Mail Direct, to redeem in advance at newsagents against their favourite title…

Subscriptions In UK Newspaper Circulation

The Takeaways…

  • The Telegraph leads the way with an amazing half of its total UK circulation coming from subscribers. That must give it remarkable revenue visibility.
  • Is this good or bad for its paid digital plans? Some paid publishers bundle together online and print access – but The Telegraph already has high print subs penetration.
  • Two papers which have introduced the schemes – The Guardian and Daily Mail – have found an encouraging subscriber base quickly.
  • But some papers lost subs last year – The Times -14% (-19,813), FT -4% (-556). Is The Times counting its missing elsewhere since introducing its online paid model? We have asked but haven’t been told.

On average, BSkyB takes an impressive £541 per year from each of its customers. Newspapers, most of which are bought habitually but occasionally, can only dream of that.

But, if they can encourage readers to buy advance subscriptions, publishers will get valuable revenue foresight and will gradually improve that ARPU. An annual print subscription can cost about £300.