Subscribe Now: On the Effectiveness of Advertising Messages in Promoting Newspapers’ Online Subscriptions

Bartosz Wilczek, Ina Schulte-Uentrop, Neil Thurman


Previous literature has suggested that newspaper publishers should optimize how they advertise their online subscriptions. However, empirical findings on the effectiveness of advertising messages in increasing people’s willingness to pay for such online subscriptions are still rare. Therefore, this study conducted an online experiment with U.K. participants (N = 815) to investigate the effects of different advertising messages on people’s willingness to pay for online news. These so-called subscription pitches included digital-specific, social, normative, and price transparency appeals. The findings show that a subscription pitch that includes both a normative appeal and a price transparency appeal significantly increases people’s willingness to pay. This indicates that informing audiences that their subscription will support independent, inclusive, and watchdog journalism and that a subscription model was implemented due to the news industry’s critical financial situation is particularly effective. Thereby, the study expands research on people’s willingness to pay for online news.


advertising, newspapers, online experiment, online journalism, online subscriptions, paywalls

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