“Anybody who tells you in the news media industry that they won’t be taking the subscription route is either lying or soon going to bankrupt.”
Rajiv Bansal, the head of the Hindustan Times’s Digital Streams, told exchange4media that the media company will soon launch a paid news subscription product. He indicated that Mint, the financial daily, may be one of the few brands that they will experiment with this year. Bansal didn’t elaborate on precisely what kind of subscription product HT might end up launching.
He added that subscription would take off in 2019 in more of HT’s brands, like HindustanTimes.com (the newspaper’s digital presence), its regional-language counterparts, and DesiMartini: “We are planning to do our initial trials this year with a couple of our brands, sort of dip our toes in the water, and then go bigger next year.”
Subscription models in Indian news
The Ken is probably the only company in India which is exclusively subscription-based — save for one free article a week, the business/tech website has a paywall for all of its content. The Economic Times recently launched ET Prime, a similar paywalled site that is separate from ET’s print operation, edited by veteran journalist Shishir Prasad.
The Business Standard‘s web edition has a watered down version of the models followed by The Ken and ET Prime — some articles are free to read, and some are paywalled. As an added perk, BS includes a digital subscription to the Wall Street Journal — which otherwise costs over $37 a month in India. VCCircle also has a premium subscription product that includes a digital WSJ subscription, or alternatively, access to the paid tier of digital magazine service Magzter. The Hindu has had a paid e-paper product for many years now, and the company has recently been trying to sell years-long subscriptions to that service in one shot.
While Outlook magazine’s web edition halted their brief experiment with micropayments, The Wire is trying a slightly modified version of that, with an interactive payments banner at the bottom of each article soliciting a user-determined donation for that article (The Wire is run by a nonprofit). Meanwhile, Scroll.in launched an ad-free subscription, Scroll+ recently, and announced that more subscriber benefits are on their way. Both The Wire and Scroll’s models run essentially on reader goodwill right now. Newslaundry moved some of its content behind a paywall early last year.
The Indian Express’s former digital CEO Sandeep Amar said last year that the website would soon launch an ad-free tier, but it’s unclear if that is still planned.