Both traditional and digital publishers began to see a surge in paid subscriptions late in 2016. Readers began to subscribe after the presidential election and the trend has continued through Apirl 2017 according to Ken Doctor for Newsonomics. Legacy print titles like the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Financial Times, and The New Yorker are all seeing huge increases in digital subscriptions. Their publically traded stock prices have also climbed. UK-based Financial Times benefited from both a Brexit Bump and a Trump Bump according to Ken Doctor. Digital-only titles like Slate and ProPublica are feeling the love as well. Finally, NPR stations across the country are experiencing record-setting membership increases.
These outlets all have strong journalism and heavy political coverage in common. As the American people hear terms like ‘alternative facts,’ ‘ fake news,’ or that ‘the press is the opposition party,’ the importance of good journalism has become clear to many people. At a time when watchdog journalism is needed, trust in the media is at a low and newsrooms are understaffed after years of cost-cutting. The proliferation of fake news has made it difficult to know if what you are reading has any credibility. Top publishers are working to win readers trust. The Wall Street Journal ran ads with the tag line: “No tilt. Campaign coverage that is on the level,” and that their content is “created, curated and checked in a real newsroom.” The New York Times launched a campaign in January, using online ads urging readers to subscribe because “Truth. It needs your support”. More initiatives are in the works according to Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson.
The New Yorker now has 1.1 million print and digital subscribers — more than it has had since its founding 92 years ago. The magazine reported that it added 100,000 subscribers in the month of January 2017 alone. The New York Times passed the 3 million subscription threshold. New York’s public broadcast station WNYC gained 140% more members from November through January. Slate’s paywall product Slate Plus increased its subscriber base 66% since the election. The New York Times now earns 60% of revenue from subscriber sources, decreasing its reliance on advertisers.
Journalists report feeling emboldened and encouraged by the surge in support after years of dealing with the realities that free digital news had brought to the industry. Slate‘s Editor-in-Chief Jacob Weisberg said, “It’s just really heartening because it’s a message back. Our readers are saying, ‘You know, we recognized the significance of what you do, and we recognize that you don’t do it for free.’ ”