four subscribers tell us their reasons.

Spain is no longer a free verse in digital subscription models. In a matter of months, it has gone from being a country with few payment initiatives to presenting a broad X-ray, in which around thirty national and regional media are represented. After the recent step forward taken by El País and El Confidencial, only La Vanguardia and ABC are yet to be launched from the major newspapers, which will deploy their paywall in September.

If the Spanish market has taken longer than necessary to make the transition towards a model focused on income from the audience, it is due to a mere cultural question. Besides leaving unpleasant experiences in the past, the low propensity of the reader to pay for online press has been a brake on the development of subscription strategies for years.

four subscribers tell us their reasons

According to data from the Digital News Report Spain 2020, prepared by the University of Navarra in coordination with the Reuters Institute of the University of Oxford, 12.2% of Spanish users paid throughout 2019 for digital news. Although they are two points more than the previous year, the percentage is still far from the 16% of the global average and the 42% that Norway presents, at the head of this trend.

Based on these figures, one might think that a part of the sector has jumped without a network by betting on this means of financing, but the efforts are aimed at convincing those users more inclined to subscribe. Piano, a company dedicated to audience optimization, has calculated that only around 5% of visitors see a subscription offer, which implies hitting the strategy.

four subscribers tell us their reasons

Despite the low conversion rates typical of the business, it seems that the response from Spanish readers is being positive. Proof of this is that El País achieved more than 52,000 digital subscribers in just six weeks from the launch of the paywall, a result well above the most optimistic internal forecasts. It is already the second Spanish newspaper with the most digital paid readers, behind the 56,000 declared by eldiario.es.

Pay for the product and for the affinity

Juan José Montiel is passionate about technology and a long-time partner of eldiario.es. “I became a member because I believe that a journalism subsidized by members and not by banks or other powers will be of better quality and with less pressure.” This 35-year-old programmer was the protagonist months ago of a report in Engadget about the difficulties of blind people to access the computer sector.

four subscribers tell us their reasons

And it is that Juanjo has a total blindness from birth and, although he does not usually participate in the community, as a partner he hopes to request improvements in the newspaper. Mainly in the case of accessibility. “For me that is fundamental”. In this sense, a few weeks ago he held a meeting with those responsible for eldiario.es to recommend solutions to this problem. “It turned out that my company had contacted them about the same thing, so the meeting turned into a possible professional proposal,” he adds.

Among the subscribers of El País is Leyre Santos, journalist and law student. “I believe that journalism is something that is paid and information is worth money.” So much so that It also pays for El Mundo and El Confidencial, although it recognizes that its reference newspaper is the head of the Prisa group. “I really wanted him to get paid because I read him every day. He has very good international journalism and if I can help them to pay them better, perfect.”

four subscribers tell us their reasons

Breaking with the supposed reluctance to pay by various means, Leyre subscribed as they lowered the lock. She says that, as a journalist and reader, she finds a different value in each medium. Regardless of the fact that ideologically you do not always agree, you understand that your financial contribution serves to support a higher quality product. “It seems very good to me that they agree to create a culture of payment in Spain. I do it more than anything out of conviction.”

“The World paid him above all for reading the chronicles of Pablo Suanzes in Europe, for the great specials he publishes and because they have a very good graphic department.” Nevertheless, admits that he is desperate for the problems he sometimes has to access closed news via Twitter. El Confidencial was seduced by his way of doing journalism, the relationship with the ‘parroquianos’ community and the columns of Juan Soto Ivars. “It is the digital company that is doing the best now and if they remove any of those three I am missing a leg of the table.”

Something similar considers Francisco Javier Cristófol from his experience as a paid reader of various media. This Malaga consultant specialized in corporate communication is subscribed to Sur On +, El Español and El Confidencial for a matter of affinity and commitment. The first is “due to local information, to be more informed about nearby issues and by family tradition.”

four subscribers tell us their reasons

However El Español, whose liberal character stands out, gives it a “multitude of possibilities within the same newspaper with all the verticals”. He also values ​​the opportunity to write on the subscriber’s blog. Support the project since its inception.

Last but not least, Francisco endorses El Confidencial for its informative value and opinion section, especially the columns by Ignacio Varela and José Antonio Zarzalejos. He points out that “they are more technical than political.” As an added advantage, he points out the exclusive meetings with subscribers.

In your case, you value the digital product as if you were going to buy a paper newspaper. “There is a total fatigue of the occasional reader and in certain occasions it does not matter what he is reading, but also in certain cases there is ignorance or lack of interest in looking for a reliable source “.

four subscribers tell us their reasons

From boom to satiety?

No one doubts that it is too early to assess the evolution of online payment in the Spanish market, but the context is favorable. For now, the coronavirus crisis is driving this business model. Proof of this is El Mundo has already exceeded the number of discharges planned for the entire year and that El Confidencial had more than 15,000 subscribers at the end of July, 80% of them annually. Increase from which the regional editions of the Vocento group, La Voz de Galicia, La Razón, Infolibre and the newspaper Ara have also benefited.

As stated by Pepe Cerezo, expert in digital business strategy and development and director of Evoca Media, “in Spain there has not been time yet, because we have just started, but it is true that the studies out there speak of that there are already many means the user begins to question what he subscribes to. It is not so much about the budget you manage but about the time I can dedicate to the ecosystem where attention competes with other types of leisure “. Time will tell if this trend continues.

“The ideal would be to have a platform with access to the different media”

The following question should be asked at this point: What reasons lead to pay for information with so much free offer available? The media expert Grzegorz Piechota concluded in an investigation carried out for the International News Media Association (INMA) that the main reason why users are willing to pay is convenience (32%), followed by good treatment (23%), content exclusivity (17%), conviction that the paid product is better (16%) and desire to finance journalism (13%).

four subscribers tell us their reasons

In the case of the also journalist Montserrat Boix, personal and professional issues weigh in. “I am a subscriber to Infolibre and Público out of solidarity, to support the type of research they carry out, and to Le Monde and El País for work reasons. I consult them frequently.” This circumstance leads him to value the service in a different way, in fact he considers the products of these last two media expensive. “I am not considering more subscriptions because I already invest a lot of money in it. The ideal would be to have a platform with access to the different media.”

The chimera of a media Spotify

The idea of ​​a media Spotify that gives readers a flat rate is as recurrent as it is unworkable. As Carlos Otto explains, “the media are already a Netflix or a Spotify and in their catalog they have their own movies and series (the stories and exclusives of the week, opinion articles and other viral or fast consumption)”. And unlike movies or music, it is a product with a very short expiration date.

On the other hand, given that the value of the product resides in the relationship created between the reader and the media, and in a platform it would lose control over its brand, Cerezo is clear that today it is not possible. “I do not know if within a certain time, when the sector is already consolidated, it will be possible to do it, but right now it is unreliable in economic terms for the media. Another thing is that we can make micropayments to a very specific medium so that the reader can peck “.

four subscribers tell us their reasons

Still, this possibility attracts many. For Francisco “it is the classic dream of those who read the press”, while Leyre doubts to what extent the independence of each medium could be maintained and how the income would be shared. “They should prioritize making student fees, because for someone without income it is expensive.” But this is one more question to be addressed in the future of the marathon subscription road.