Digital news subscriptions hit 23m, Press Gazette research finds

100k Club: Digital news subscriptions top 23m, Press Gazette research finds

Digital news subscriptions

English-language publishers now boast more than 23m digital news subscriptions between them, according to Press Gazette’s latest 100k Club ranking.

The paying online readers are shared between 28 outlets that have 100,000 or more digital-only subscribers.

The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal lead the way with 6.7m, 3m and 2.5m digital-only subscriptions respectively.

[Click here to subscribe to Press Gazette’s must-read newsletters, Future of Media and Future of Media – US]

Since Press Gazette’s first 100k Club report was published in December, we have discovered increases of 20% or more across five publishers – Telegraph Media Group, Bloomberg Media, Insider Inc, National Geographic and a financial news division of Dow Jones – over varying periods.

We have also added four new entrants to the league table: newsletter platform Substack, local US news publisher Lee Enterprises, Canada’s Globe and Mail, and Investor’s Business Daily, which is due to become part of News Corp later this year.

Of the 28 members of the 100k Club, 21 publishers/publications are American and five are British. Australia and Canada have one entrant each.

Many publishers are in the early stages of building up their digital subscriber bases, and currently attract readers with low-cost offers. Our research finds that, if all subscribers were paying full-rate costs, these publishers would be making more than $6bn a year in digital subscription revenues between them.

Press Gazette also today publishes an interview with Mark Thompson who, as chief executive between 2012 and 2020, oversaw a more than tenfold increase in digital-only subscribers at the New York Times.

[Read more: Mark Thompson interview: How New York Times defied ‘scepticism’ to build digital subscriptions powerhouse]

Digital news subscription rankings

The 100k Club league table below ranks publishers/ publications by their digital-only subscriber numbers. Most, but not all, figures have been updated since our last ranking in December 2020. Where publishers do not provide digital-only subscription numbers, we make this clear.

Press Gazette plans to regularly update this research with new figures and add new publications and publishers as they pass the 100,000 mark. If you know of any other publishers that should be included in this ranking, please let us know by emailing william.turvill@pressgazette.co.uk.

1. The New York Times 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 6.7m (December 2020)

Previous entry: 6.1m (September 2020)

Change: +10%

The digital subscriptions trailblazer, the New York Times was a major beneficiary of the so-called Trump bump in 2016/17 (as acknowledged by former chief executive Mark Thompson in an interview with Press Gazette). But, as of December at least, there was no sign of a dent in interest following Joe Biden’s election victory in late 2020.

2. The Washington Post 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 3m (November 2020)

Figure not updated

Privately owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post does not regularly release digital-only subscriber numbers. Last week, in an interview with Press Gazette, Sara Sorcher – the editor of the Post’s new London breaking news hub – spoke about the title’s plans to grow its international subs base. Around 10% of subscriptions are currently international (non-US).

Read more: Sara Sorcher interview

3. The Wall Street Journal 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 2.5m (December 2020)

Previous entry: 2.4m (September 2020)

Change: +5%

Like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal had suffered no slump in interest in late 2020 despite the prospect of a less controversial White House.

Read more: How the Wall Street Journal used subscriptions ‘science’ to sign up 350,000 new online subscribers in 2020

4. Gannett 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 1.1m (December 2020)

Previous entry: 1m (September 2020)

Change: +7%

With print circulations badly hit by Covid-19 (see our recent report on USA Today for more information), local news giant Gannett has become increasingly focused on its digital subscription business. In addition to USA Today, Gannett owns hundreds of local newspapers across the US and Newsquest titles in the UK.

Read more: USA Today circulated halved by Covid-19

5. The Athletic 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 1m (September 2020)

Figure not updated

Founded in 2015, the sports-focused Athletic has rapidly grown its subscriber base. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the outlet is in merger talks with fellow media start-up Axios.

[Click here to subscribe to Press Gazette’s must-read newsletters, Future of Media and Future of Media – US]

6. Financial Times 🇬🇧

Latest figure: 960,000 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 945,000 (September 2020)

Change: +2%

Owned by Japan’s Nikkei, the UK-headquartered Financial Times is the highest non-US publication in this table.

Read more: Financial Times CEO – Publishers don’t have to choose between ads and subscriptions – they can have both

7. The Guardian 🇬🇧

Latest figure: 900,000* (November 2020)

Figure not updated

The Guardian’s 900,000 figure – first revealed by Press Gazette’s 100k Club ranking in December – is for paying online readers rather than digital-only subscribers. The figure is made up of 352,000 subscriptions to its premium apps and tablet editions, and 548,000 recurring contributors to its journalism. The Guardian’s website is free to access.

Read more: Guardian claims a record 1m paying readers after surge in regular contributions and subscriptions

8. The Economist 🇬🇧

Latest figure: 874,802* (December 2020)

Previous entry: 795,878 (June 2020)

Change: +10%

The Economist’s digital edition had a weekly average circulation of nearly 875,000 in the second half of 2020, according to circulation auditors ABC. The title does not provide digital-only subscription figures.

9. News Corp Australia 🇦🇺

Latest figure: 738,300 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 685,200 (September 2020)

Change: +8%

News Corp Australia’s titles include the Australian, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Courier-Mail. The company does not break down its digital-only subscriptions by brand, but the Daily Telegraph announced in January that it had surpassed 100,000 alone.

[Read more: News Corp strikes ‘landmark’ Facebook News deal in Australia]

10. Substack 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 500,000 (February 2021)

New entry

Substack is a tech company that allows individual writers to set up newsletter-led websites. In February, it announced that its writers collectively have more than 500,000 paying subscribers. It takes a bold journalist to leave an established publication to go it alone, but Substack can be lucrative. According to co-founder Hamish McKenzie, the platform’s top ten writers earn more than $15m a year between them.

[Read more: Hamish McKenzie interview]

11. Barron’s 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 476,000 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 458,000 (September 2020)

Change: +4%

An investment-focused news service, Barron’s is one of several titles on this list owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

[Read more: How US financial news brands Marketwatch and Barron’s grew traffic in UK and Europe]

12. Tribune Publishing 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 436,000 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 427,000 (September 2020)

Change: +2%

One of America’s largest local news publishers, Tribune Publishing owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun. The company (which is currently at the centre of a takeover battle) does not break out its subscription numbers by brand. The Chicago Tribune alone surpassed 100,000 digital subscribers in 2019.

13. Telegraph Media Group 🇬🇧

Latest figure: 401,938 (February 2021)

Previous entry: 335,399 (October 2020)

Change: 20%

The Telegraph’s digital subscriber number is rapidly growing. Press Gazette reported last week how it is creating 60 new newsroom jobs in the first half of this year. Since our last 100k Club ranking, the Telegraph has overtaken both the Times (its traditional British rival) and the Atlantic.

[Read more: Telegraph creating 60 jobs in six months as subscriptions top 600,000]

14. The Atlantic 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 400,000* (September 2020)

Figure not updated

The Atlantic magazine now has 775,000 subscribers across print and digital, up from 700,000 in late 2020, Press Gazette understands. It gained nearly 400,000 new subscribers in 2020.

The title has not provided a digital-only subscriber number for this ranking. Its 400,000 figure covers both digital-only and some print-digital subscriptions. The Atlantic launched its paywall in September 2019 so its digital subs business is growing fast.

15. The Times and Sunday Times 🇬🇧

Latest figure: 335,000

Previous entry: 337,000

Change: -1%

The News Corp-owned Times and Sunday Times saw their digital-only subscription number fall slightly between September and December 2020.

16. Bloomberg Media 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 300,000 (March 2021)

Previous entry: 250,000

Change: +20%

Bloomberg Media launched a paywall on its business news website in 2018. It hit 250,000 subscribers last year, and, according to Axios, is aiming to hit 400,000 by the end of 2021. Separately, the wider company has around 325,000 subscribers to its financial information service, Bloomberg Terminal.

[Read more: Bloomberg Media CEO – Journalism industry needs more ‘imagination, creativity and urgency’ to emerge from Covid-19 crisis]

17. McClatchy 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 299,000 (December 2020)

Figure not updated

A US local news giant, McClatchy owns the Sacramento Bee, Miami Herald and Kansas City Star.

18. Lee Enterprises 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 286,000

New entry

Another US local news company, Lee’s brands include the St Louis Post Dispatch and the Buffalo News.

19. The New Yorker 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 279,032 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 241,723 (June 2020)

Change: +15%

The Conde Nast-owned New Yorker had nearly 280,000 digital subscribers at the end of 2020, according to its latest Alliance for Audited Media certificate.

[Click here to subscribe to Press Gazette’s must-read newsletters, Future of Media and Future of Media – US]

20. The Los Angeles Times 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 273,851 (April 2021)

Previous entry: 257,212 (December 2020)

Change: +6%

The LA Times has 273,851 directly paying digital-only subscribers. Its total digital-only subs – including through aggregator Apple News+ and other partnerships – is 391,345, Press Gazette understands.

21. Insider Inc 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 250,000 (February 2021)

Previous entry: 200,000 (January 2020)

Change+ 25%

Founder Henry Blodget revealed in an interview with Press Gazette that the Insider group now has around 250,000 subscribers. Its consumer-facing website, Insider, has more than 100,000 subscribers alone, while it also has paying readers for eMarketer and other B2B services.

[Read more: Henry Blodget interview: Why is Insider still thriving? Because we didn’t try to be Disney]

22. Boston Globe 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 223,000 (September 2020)

Figure not updated

According to an internal note obtained by journalism professor Dan Kennedy, the Boston Globe reached 223,000 digital-only subscribers in September.

23. National Geographic 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 182,449 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 142,074 (June 2020)

Change: 28%

National Geographic’s latest Alliance for Audited Media certificate showed it reached more than 180,000 digital subscribers by the end of 2020.

24. Globe and Mail 🇨🇦

Latest figure: 170,000 (April 2021)

New entry

A national newspaper for Canada, the Globe and Mail has built up a digital subscriber base of more than 160,000 with help from Sophi, an artificial intelligence company it set up to help publishers identify their most valuable content.

25. Wired 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 163,201

Previous entry: 142,269

Change: +15%

Conde Nast’s tech-focused consumer title grew its digital-only subscriptions to above 160,000 in late 2020, according to Alliance for Audited Media figures.

[Click here to subscribe to Press Gazette’s must-read newsletters, Future of Media and Future of Media – US]

26. Dow Jones other (Financial News, Private Equity News, MarketWatch) 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 123,000 (December 2020)

Previous entry: 102,000 (September 2020)

Change: +21%

Another group of News Corp titles, Financial News, Private Equity News and MarketWatch grew their combined digital-only subscriptions by 21% in the last three months of 2020.

27. Minneapolis Star Tribune 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 101,162 (April 2021)

Previous entry: 101,775 (December 2020)

Change: -1%

According to Steve Yaeger, the Star Tribune’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president for circulation, the title’s “core digital offering” is up 21% over the last year.

The small decrease recorded here reflects the fact that the company has been “phasing out or pricing up other digital offerings (for example, an old highly discounted replica subscription) and that is dragging our overall paid number down. We are very happy with our digital subscription volume and revenue growth.”

28. Investor’s Business Daily 🇺🇸

Latest figure: 100,000 (March 2021)

New entry

The publisher of Investors.com, IBD is set to become part of News Corp’s Dow Jones division in the coming months after a takeover deal was agreed with current owner O’Neil Capital Management.

The 100k Club rankings table

Photo credit: Anton Garin/Shutterstock

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Author: William Turvill

William is Press Gazette's North America Editor.