Comparison of Engagements – Subscribers to Occasional Readers

Most of the time you will notice that publishers and newsrooms keep reducing their staff. That’s because financing media isn’t easy. But most view the subscription model (or the reader revenue model) as the latest strategy that could save journalism.

Monetizing on the information these days might seem like an improbable idea, but readers have shown that they are willing to pay for quality content. Media outlets started experimenting with charging for content with their audience after developing a strong relationship with them.

They received significantly positive results. There was an increasing number of publishers reporting an increase in the subscribers. Reader revenue is slowly becoming an important source of revenue.

Experts say that subscribers consume 20 times more ads which can be five times more expensive as they are found in the premium content section and read 20 times more articles. Also compared to anonymous users, subscribers are 160 times more valuable to the publishers.

With those positive figures, we aim to find out the similarities and differences between occasional readers and subscribers. We aim to find out more about the levels of reader’s engagement and the behavior of the two types of readers.

Crucial findings:

•    Subscribers are better promoters of media brands and stories as they tend to be more eager to share the content they read

•    Subscribers spend more time reading content and they read more content compared to occasional readers

•    Subscribers are 34.5% more engaged than occasional readers


In this comparison, we won’t deal with single metrics like returning visitors, average time on a page, and page views because they don’t measure human behavior. They only measure browser activity.

We will concentrate on the article reads instead of page views. Page views cannot offer reliable data on the reader’s level of engagement or their actual number. We will also concentrate on the attention time instead of the time spent on the page and the read depth to determine how far a reader has got into when reading.

The above metrics are taken into consideration and calculated by an algorithm called the Content Performance Indicator (CPI). This algorithm takes into consideration various performance metrics and examines how they relate. It weighs them according to behavioral models: loyalty, engagement, and exposure.

To show how occasional readers and subscribers behave, the data from nine media outlets are analyzed. Free and paid content that were analyzed were 58,500 articles. The articles were published between mid-October 2018 and mid-January 2019.

Subscribers are significantly more engaged

Charging for content has shown to have good potential as a sustainable business model. This has led many publishers to prioritize on creating and nurturing loyal leaders.

Many media specialist talk about what drives readers to become subscribers or their numbers. However, they don’t put into consideration their level of engagement or behavior.

The use of the content performance indicator has shown that subscribers are 34.5% more engaged as compared to occasional readers.

What is engagement CPI?

This is a complex algorithm that is used in calculating content performance. This algorithm relies on behavioral metrics and not simple metrics that only measure browser activity. It empowers it to evaluate content performance in a proper way. It is presented as a number between 1 and 1,000.

This engagement CPI helps publishers understand the content that resonates well with their audience. It also helps in understanding the content that gets the most interest from the readers. It shows how efficient articles are at convincing the readers to stay engaged with content within the article and across the domain.

Subscribers read more

The actual time that readers spend on articles is also taken into consideration when calculating engagement. It serves as a proof of the value of a section, topic or page. This is something advertisers are interested in before investing in an advertisement.

Average attention

The comparison of the attention time for occasional readers and subscribers was made.

The data used showed that subscribers spend 21.5% more time on average reading compared to occasional readers.

But which type of readers reads more words? We will compare the number of words read by the two reader groups.

On average, subscribers read 221 words per article as compared to occasional readers who read 176 words per article. This means that subscribers read 21% more on a single article as compared to readers who read free content.

The average number of words per article

The research showed that subscribers get longer stories. It is estimated that premium content is 38% longer than unpaid content.


The data showed that subscribers share more than occasional readers. This is shown by the percentage of the social action calculated. The percentage shows the people who read content and like it, comment on it or share it on social media.

The data showed that the percentage of the social action for occasional readers was at 1.91%, while that of subscribers stood at 5.69%. This is about three times higher than for occasional readers.


Experts say that subscribers account for about 1.5 to 4% of total readership. This figure might seem so small at first glance, but you should remember that subscribers are worth 160 times more to the publishers than occasional readers. These figures might seem small, but they count.

Subscribers are worth a lot to the publishers:

•    They are amazing brand supporters and they normally promote media through social media by commenting on the content or sharing them.

•    Subscribers read 21% more words and spend 21.5% more time reading the paid content

•    Compared to occasional readers, they are 34.5% more engaged

Publishers need to put more effort into developing a strong relationship with the readers if they want to grow their business. They need to invest time in creating high-quality stories. It might need resources to get that done, but it’s worth it because readers will have developed respect for the work, and they will be willing to pay for it.

When there are professionally created subscription plans and high-quality content, publishers can convert readers into brand advocates. They will be speaking on their behalf by promoting paid content through recommendation or across social media. Publishers can also benefit from the ads and make it their secondary revenue source as premium sections provide more expensive ad space due to the higher reader engagement.

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