Jul 19, 2022 - Economy & Business

Rise of subscription sleepers

Data: Piano; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Over 43% of digital media subscribers become inactive the day after they subscribe, according to a new report, up from 39% in 2021.

Why it matters: The rise of "subscription sleepers" is a grim signal for digital media companies looking to bolster subscription dollars as the growth in the ad market decelerates.

Driving the news: The new report from Piano, a subscription tech company, finds that a vast majority (90%) of those who disengage after they initially purchase a subscription tend to become inactive soon after they subscribe.

  • When they do finally reengage, it's typically to cancel the subscription.
  • Subscription sleepers accounted for 30% of active churn (subscription cancellations) among the more than 550 subscription websites Piano measured in the past year.

Between the lines: Under pressure to grow and maintain big subscriber numbers, news companies are trying to make their products more engaging.

  • Job postings for the Washington Post, Yahoo News, The Atlantic and Wall Street Journal all reference efforts to create a daily or ongoing "habit" with their readers.
  • That strategy has long been championed by the New York Times, which has introduced everything from games to recipes to try to keep subscribers hooked.

What to watch: The report suggests coverage of major breaking news helps publishers reengage sleepers without prompting them to cancel.

  • During the beginning of the pandemic, the percentage of subscription sleepers measured across Piano's customer sites dropped by 25%.
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