Online recycling of print media is not racking in subscribers yet
Slovenian Newspapers Delo, Dnevnik, Večer, and Finance offer their paying online subscribers mainly digitalised versions of the printed content.
»It's amazing that the amount of news that happened in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper«. American comic Jerry Seinfeld could have made an equally bitter remark about the infinite digital abyss that newspaper companies feed with their online content. He's good at hitting where it hurts, but he didn't get at one of the deepest wounds of print media across the globe and evidently, also in Slovenia – why are newspapers losing readers, especially loyal subscribers?
In 2012, Slovenian print media companies locked their online content behind a common Piano paywall that soon gave in. Then they went their separate ways.
The number of people who buy newspapers dropped as a result of the global economic crisis, but the internet is even more blameworthy. It managed to turn people away from print, even found new readers, but it was unable to create a stable core of subscribers who would pay real money in the digital world. Heads of newspaper companies tried online advertising to fill the ever-increasing gap in income, but the effects were less than satisfactory; partially because more and more of the advertising funds are going into social media.
When it came to selling online content, the Slovenian media did not sit idle. Each of the players tried to find their own way to online revenue, until in 2012, a good chunk of the newspaper companies connected through the Slovakian subscription system Piano, which meant they placed their rich content behind a paywall. How else to let the public know that high-quality journalism should be rewarded? And if the idea of linking media worked in Slovakia, why wouldn’t it work in Slovenia?
But strengthening this type of subscription relationship was no trifling matter. First responses were fine, but the subsequent months were not as financially viable as predicted, which is why all newspapers down to the last, abandoned Piano and started trying out their own solutions for providing »premium« access.
They’re still looking for a stable subscription system. In Slovenia, as well as elsewhere. Not every newspaper has the chance, like the New York Times, to ride the anti-Trump wave and turn it to its advantage; and not every newspaper can get bought by the richest man in the world, like the Washington Post. Not every newspaper has the principles of the Guardian, which has been insisting on free online content for all since the very beginning.
Monthly subscriptions to Slovenian newspapers vary greatly, from a measly 15 to up to 33 euros, but the range of options is comparatively small.
At the moment, the four largest Slovenian daily newspapers, Delo, Dnevnik, Večer, and Finance all have their own digital subscription systems. They mainly offer daily, monthly, and yearly subscription options, most of them are pushing the printed editions to the foreground, but some of them also offer specifically digital ones.
After paying the monthly sum of 33 euros, online subscribers of Delo can access all online content and a digitalised newspaper on a tablet, the Delo ekspress application, and the online article archive dating back to 2004.
Dnevnik’s digital subscribers pay about half of that sum, 14.90 euros, and similarly get all digital and application content, while each package can be accessed by two users.
E-Večer subscribers pay a monthly fee of 19.90 euros to read online articles and all the content created for the newspaper. They can read through tomorrow’s printed content the evening before, and have access to older digitalised issues.
Finance, which was the first media company in Slovenia to introduce a digital subscription programme in 2003, charges their subscribers 30 euros for access to all articles in the business daily newspaper Finance, along with all its supplements online and on their tablets, as well as the use of MiniBonitete, a Finance service allowing users to check the credit ratings of their business partners.
The Printed Great-grandfather
For now, the Slovenian newspaper media have failed to find a way to replace or at least mitigate the shrinking revenues resulting from the persistent decline of printed-edition circulation by selling digital content. Online, they are obviously pushing ahead with the subscription model, which has proved to be successful in the past: unlike abroad, Slovenian readers usually preferred to subscribe to newspapers rather than buy them from a newsagent every day.
Is it possible to upgrade this subscription model and repeat the success of the past in the digital era? Are readers prepared to pay a monthly fee just to access newspaper articles, which represent the lion’s share of these packages? In the past years, the readers of Slovenian digital newspapers have not been able to verify that. Can we assume that perhaps they want more from the media companies for their contribution and loyalty?
Or to put it differently, do Netflix subscribers continue to pay their monthly fee because that’s how they can access all the series, or because the company is constantly finding new ways to get under the subscribers’ skin and charm even more of their night away.