New Study Reveals Connection between Entertainment, News Media Subscriptions

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Consumers who spend more on entertainment subscriptions also spend more on news media subscriptions

Arlington, VA – A study conducted by researchers at University of Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication in cooperation with the News Media Alliance and the Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Star Tribune uncovered new drivers of digital news media subscriptions that provide news publishers keys to growing subscription revenue. The study, which surveyed consumers in Minnesota, found that those who have entertainment subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, etc.) are more likely to purchase a digital subscription to a newspaper, and there is a positive correlation between spending more on entertainment subscriptions and spending more on news media subscriptions.

The objective of the study was to understand consumers’ willingness to pay and motivations for subscribing to news, entertainment media and sports content. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know how newspaper subscription costs fit in to consumers’ overall subscription budget. The survey was conducted with Minnesota residents between April 24 and June 4, 2019, and received just under 500 responses. The responses were weighted to reflect the U.S. Census data for the state of Minnesota.

The study revealed that the average Minnesota household has approximately four digital media subscriptions, including 1.3 news subscriptions. Subscribers report setting a budget of about $600 per year for media subscriptions, but they actually spend closer to $700 per year ($58/month).

Nearly all respondents report paying for both news and entertainment, and while entertainment is the major driver of subscription spending, there are interesting findings pertaining to news media spending. For example, local news subscribers are more likely to subscribe to a national news outlet, with one-third (33 percent) of Star Tribune subscribers saying they also have a subscription to a national newspaper such as The New York Times or The Washington Post (compared to 7 percent of non-subscribers of the Star Tribune). Thus, having a Star Tribune subscription also appears to drive subscriptions to other local news media.

There is a trend toward an increasingly mobile audience when consumers engage with media subscriptions, with mobile use (58 percent) surpassing print (54 percent) and gaining on computer use (74 percent). While news media subscriptions tend to be driven more by print readers, this does not necessarily suggest that news media subscriptions will decline with the increase in mobile device use. “The continued growth of mobile for digital media consumption should neither surprise nor worry anyone,” said Steve Yaeger, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at the Star Tribune. “As our sales across all platforms attest, people are still hungry for quality news irrespective of device. These data show that as long as news publishers are innovating and adapting to meet consumer needs and desires, subscribers will continue to seek out and subscribe to newspaper content.”

In terms of perceived value of different types of subscriptions, consumers are willing to pay more for sports content and streaming music subscriptions. Therefore, while appealing to a smaller audience segment, sports content represents an opportunity for news media to grow reader revenue.

When it comes to motivators, timeliness—getting the very latest updates—is the top motivator for subscribing to news. This finding can serve as guidance to publishers on marketing the value proposition of their product to current and potential subscribers (i.e., the best source for breaking news), as well as how to evolve (e.g., through partnerships with growing streaming services) to remain relevant and appeal to a broader audience, as well as reduce the risk of subscription fatigue.

News Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern said, “We’re very pleased we could help provide this research, which will help our members – especially the smaller, local newspapers – as the newspaper revenue model shifts from primarily ad-based to more subscription-based. Overall, this study highlights many potential opportunities to enhance their offerings to help drive digital subscriptions.”

The Alliance hopes to repeat the study in other markets to understand regional and national differences in spending, willingness to pay and motivations to subscribe. “We’re excited to have a template that can be used to do the same research in other markets, to understand what drives subscriptions in different parts of the country,” stated Rebecca Frank, Alliance Vice President of Research & Insights. “These insights will be extremely valuable to news publishers as subscription revenue becomes an increasingly important revenue source.”

To view the full study, click here. Member login required.


Media Contact:
Lindsey Loving
Manager, Communications

The News Media Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 news organizations and their multiplatform businesses in the United States and globally. Alliance members include print, digital and mobile publishers of original news content. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., the association focuses on ensuring the future of news media through communication, research, advocacy and innovation. Information about the News Media Alliance (formerly NAA) can be found at


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