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April 23, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:13am

Reuters paywall launch: Why CMO Josh London believes readers will pay for ‘news in context’

By William Turvill

Global news agency Reuters is confident readers will pay for “news in context” as it prepares to compete with Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and others for digital subscribers behind a paywall.

Reuters last week became the latest big-name news outlet to announce it would be placing its website behind a paywall.

Josh London – the chief marketing officer of Reuters and head of Reuters Professional – tells Press Gazette how the company will be looking beyond the news industry for inspiration from the wider “subscription economy”.

[This article first appeared in Press Gazette’s North America newsletter, Future of Media – US. Click here to subscribe.]

He also talks about societal changes that have resulted in consumers being “increasingly willing to pay” for online news.

Press Gazette’s ‘100k Club’ report last week revealed there are now more than 23m digital subscriptions shared between English-language news websites.

But, with its traditional rivals like Bloomberg and the WSJ already having established subs businesses, the Reuters paywall faces stiff competition.

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Reuters paywall Q&A with  Josh London, CMO, Reuters and head of Reuters Professional

Q: How was the decision taken for Reuters to launch a website paywall? How long has this been under consideration? Why has the decision been taken now?

“Reuters recently launched Reuters Professional, comprising, Reuters Events, and Reuters Plus, our content studio. As Reuters builds our Reuters Professional offering, we want to be an essential component of professionals’ “daily habit”. Offering news and intelligence across breaking news, market data insights and analysis to help professionals make decisions is the next stage in our evolution.

“Subscribers benefit from Reuters’ strength across markets and geographies. With 2,500 journalists across 200 locations – and both breadth and deep specialism in our newsroom – we can cover every element of a news story and its impact on people, businesses and markets around the world.

“Both general news readers and professionals benefit from the vast amount of exclusive content created every day and delivered at industry-leading speed.”

Q: When will the subscriptions business go live?

“We will share more information in the coming weeks.”

Q: How will the paywall work? How many (if any) articles will be freely available per month under your plans? Will any areas of the news website remain free to access?

“This subscription model will be based on a metered approach to content consumption. At launch, users will have access to five articles per month before being asked to subscribe.”

Q: Who do you expect to subscribe to Reuters? Professionals who need business news for their jobs? Consumers interested in global news? 

“Through months of audience research, we found our users were divided in two groups: those wanting breaking news and professionals looking for context and analysis about how news affected their industry. This research helped us inform our subscriptions offering.”

[This article first appeared in Press Gazette’s North America newsletter, Future of Media – US. Click here to subscribe.]

Q: Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, two obvious competitors to Reuters in the US market, already have paywalls with growing subscriber bases. How much of a challenge does this present for Reuters? Would you expect existing subscribers of publications like these to pay to access Reuters also?

“Our ability to deliver both business and general news, combined with a vast amount of exclusive content created every day and delivered at industry-leading speed, generates unique, trusted and actionable insights among our professional audience. 

“Our research shows that what professionals need is the news in context: to stay updated and informed about why it matters to them. So a breaking news story about a ship stuck in the Suez Canal, expands into one that has implications for multiple industries, including supply chain, transport, and insurance.”

Q: Several large news companies have enjoyed success in building up their digital subscriptions businesses in recent years (as shown in Press Gazette’s ‘100k Club’ research). Are there any in particular that you’ve admired or will be looking to as a model for success?

“We are thrilled to have a successful news industry. The subscription economy is not just confined to news, customers subscribe to music, film, food delivery, clothing, beauty products – you name it. We are keeping a close eye on news media, but taking the opportunity to learn from outside of the industry as well.”

Q: For many years, news companies appeared to believe that consumers would not be willing to pay for online news. Why has this changed?

“Digital disruption combined with the rise of platforms has transformed the behaviours of consumers and how media organisations operate around the world. In some regions, consumers always paid for content, whether in print or online. In others, we’ve seen business models change based on where the ad market currently stands coupled with the fact that quality journalism is highly valued and thus, consumers are increasingly willing to pay for that value.”

Photo credit: 4kclips/ Shutterstock

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