Big media with a digital subscription model have to make trade-offs every day when it comes to closing their news. On the one hand, they have to restrict their best news because they need to increase their subscriber base to make this source of revenue sustainable. But on the other hand, they do not want to lose too much traffic so that their current main source of income, which is advertising, does not suffer.
In this tug of war, it is true that the major media close to subscribers less than 10% of the news they publish, according to a Rebold report with data from 2021 to which this medium has had access. According to this work, El Mundo is the generalist newspaper that restricts more news for its more than 90,000 subscribers: 16% of them are closed.
El País, on the other hand, reserves 6% of its published news for its 162,000 subscribers, while ABC (28,000 subscribers) reserves 8% of its content for its 162,000 subscribers. In the case of El Confidencial it is 4%, and in the case of El Español and La Vanguardia it is only 2%.
However, if we analyse the front pages of the media, the percentage of news items closed to subscribers increases notably. Here, El País restricts 45% of the news items on its homepage, compared to 34% for El Mundo. La Vanguardia does so in 31% of its news items, El Confidencial, 24%; ABC, 20%; and El Español, 13%.
Expansión is a case apart, with a model quite different from that of the generalist press. In its case, the financial daily closes 70% of its news items. And two out of every three news items hosted on the front page are only for subscribers.
The strategy of Unidad Editorial’s business newspaper is similar to other leading international newspapers in terms of the number of subscribers at a global level, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, which have closed most of their news items.
Thus, in comparison with other more mature markets, few news items are closed in Spain. This is due to the media’s desire not to lose advertising impressions. In this aspect, Spanish media with a paid model have been losing audience throughout last year, according to Rebold’s report, obtained with data from Comscore. For example, El País lost just over 500,000 daily readers in its digital version in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the aforementioned study. It should be remembered that Prisa’s newspaper changed its subscription system at the beginning of this year to adopt a freemium system.
In contrast, the media that have implemented free distribution models have gained audience in 2021. This is the case of La Razón, OKDiario, El Huffington Post, El Economista.es and Vanitatis.