Last week The Telegraph, owned by Telegraph Media Group, announced that it is dropping its metered paywall in favor of a digital, premium subscription service called Telegraph Premium. Much of The Telegraph’s content will now be free, including breaking news, sports, entertainment, social, media, travel, lifestyle and culture news, but a significant number of daily stories will be reserved for premium subscribers.
“As we move into the future, we will continue to offer a huge range of open, quality content but Telegraph Premium allows us to place a value on some of our most unique, in-depth and insightful journalism, offering compelling analysis from the most authoritative writers,” Chris Evans, editor of The Daily Telegraph, said.
The Subscription Experience
March 4, 2021 • Noon Eastern
Readers who register, but don’t want to pay a fee, can access one premium article per week. Subscribers have two options: Premium (£2 per week) and Premium Digital Edition (£6 per week), following a 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are automatically renewable, but they can be canceled at any time.
The Telegraph is pitching the packages as offering subscribers “a premium point of view,” helping members get closer to the heart of the story.
“Our team of award-winning writers, authorities and insiders offer you a unique perspective with their unparalleled access to prominent figures and major events. From politics to fashion, sport to the city – Premium brings you an insider’s view.”
As an added bonus, Premium subscribers get exclusive rewards and perks, including a free Google Play Music subscription and free access to The Washington Post and invitations to and VIP treatment at members-only events. The Guardian reports that additional packages are available for £10 and £11 a week, including various combinations of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, digital and print editions. We did not find information about these packages on The Telegraph’s website.
Robert Bridge, chief customer officer at Telegraph Media Group, explained how the switch impacts the company’s business model:
“Premium content embodies our core brand values of perspective, intelligence and progression. The launch of Telegraph Premium has significant benefits for all areas of our business. It will drive new subscription revenue and enhance our advertising and commerce offerings by having a permanently free layer of content,” Bridge said.
“The driving factor for this is to increase engagement with readers,” said The Telegraph’s chief customer officer Robert Bridge. “We still need the reach, but this is about direct connections.”
According to Digiday, the goal is for The Telegraph to triple its digital subscriber base by 2017. As of now, the changes will not require any internal changes.
The Telegraph is not the only British media outlet to experiment with business models. The Guardian tried a dramatic switch to a membership model in 2014. A year later, in September 2015, the newspaper said it was enjoying success with its exclusive membership program that was intended to more deeply engage readers and supporters with The Guardian. Like The Telegraph, The Guardian offered multiple membership tiers, exclusive events and perks.
While early results on The Guardian’s experiment were positive, but five months later, The Guardian announced it was implementing a three-year plan to cut costs by 20 percent. The changes included relaunching an enhanced version of the membership program with a goal of doubling revenue. In other words, it wasn’t successful enough to continue as is. The Guardian had to rework its new initiative.
The Telegraph is launching a similar program, but perhaps it has learned from the mistakes of The Guardian and other outlets who have imposed major changes on their business model. We can see potential success with different tiers of premium products, but some of the perks like the complimentary Google Play Music subscription almost seem like an afterthought. They may impress some readers, but it seems more likely that readers who choose to subscribe really value premium content.