Hello and welcome to the first edition of Publisher Weekly, a newsletter examining the ever-shifting sands of the publishing industry’s evolution.
We’re starting this now because there’s a fundamental shift emerging from a past of giant organisations with ad-based business models, to a future of smaller independent creators who building sustainable businesses and vibrant communities in their own independent niches.
Follow along here as we look to document and analyse this landscape and help you understand the why behind it. We’ll be curating a tremendous amount of great reading about industry changes, the platforms behind it, and who’s making it work.
John, from Ghost
We’re here to talk about independent publishing, but Christian Science Monitor has had wild success with its simple, hacked together daily email. With more than 10,000 paying subscribers there’s a clear business model here that’s made the company completely reorganize its newsroom around it, instead of advertising. Paid newsletters are working in every niche imaginable, with everything from Ben Thompson’s technology analysis at Stratechery to deep insights on basketball and the NBA from Cleaning the Glass.
Dutch journalism site, The Correspondent, is building a CRM specifically for journalists with the aim to help them reach more sources than ever before. This is interesting, particularly because it’s designed to help tap into expertise from writers’ audiences as well as their existing sources to further widen the net and get more points of view. This may help convince paying members that they’re a part of something bigger, and that they have the power to suggest stories they’d like to read to journalists.
Over the years Medium has pivoted a number of times, much to publishers’ disapproval. The latest pivot saw the company pull the subscription revenue from publications with just a few days’ worth of notice, leaving them scrambling to find another business model.Owen writes about a hypothetical scenario in which Medium eventually runs out of capital and gets acquired. What of all the content that’s been consolidated there? Will it just disappear?
GDPR, Europe’s new privacy law that requires user consent before they are able to be tracked, came into effect on May 25 globally. The winners? Independent publishers who have a direct relationship with their clients. The losers? Everyone who shut off access to their content in Europe because they couldn’t find a way to adapt in time. As a result, ad fulfillment is cratering in Europe.
The digital subscription business has been huge for publishers, but they’ve actively failed to implement it in a way that keeps subscribers engaged long term. Many publications ask for dirt-cheap subscription fees up front, like $1 for six months, then suddenly make the price $30 a month later on and hide the cancellation button. Some of them ask for that $30 a month, then still track you and show advertising at the same time while you’re paying!This great piece from Monday Note looks at all of the fundamental mistakes the industry is making, and why publishers like Bloomberg are failing to give their subscribers a good experience making them leave in droves to independent writers and analysts instead.
The irony that The New York Times is one of the publishers that makes you pay for access and still shows advertising is not lost on us, but they’re clearly leading the way with many of their other digital subscription products. Here’s how they go about building them, and thinking up real value adds for potential subscribers.
We’ll leave you with this note: a great roundup of publishers going out on their own and building subscription businesses around paid newsletters. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own idea, this is a great place to start with real advice on how to start asking for money for your own content.