How a brand new sort of stories model in Italy hit 50,000 paying subscribers | What’s New in Publishing


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Luca Sofri is a character in Italian media. He has been a print journalist with a number of main publications and a tv and radio commentator. However that was not sufficient to make his digital information startup financially sustainable.

He experimented lots previously 12 years, glimpsed chapter for a time, and had a bit of little bit of luck. That’s not precisely a recipe for achievement, nevertheless it does describe the expertise of many digital media entrepreneurs. His story may include some learnings that others can put into apply.

Luca Sofri: Editor of Italy's Il Post on hitting 50,000 subs without a  paywall
Luca Sofri, founding father of Il Put up. Used with permission

interviewed Sofri on the finish of 2020, the primary yr of the pandemic, and he admitted that covid-19 labored in favor of Il Put up.

Information shoppers in Italy had been hungry for dependable details about the pandemic. The normal information sources, in quest of visitors and advert income, had been offering conflicting, contradictory, or sensationalistic details about how contagious and critical the illness was.

So a key contributor to membership development was Il Put up’s free every day publication on the pandemic, which adopted a balanced, data-driven method. It obtained 70,000 subscribers in its first week.

Because it occurred, Il Put up had launched a membership program the yr earlier than, modeled after the donation program of the Guardian within the UK and the membership mannequin of in Spain. So it was able to fulfill the demand for dependable data.

Staving off chapter

Il Put up’s membership mannequin was meant to keep away from insolvency. The publication, which had relied on promoting and occasions for income, misplaced 500,000 euros in 2018 when digital promoting plummeted (near $600,000 at the moment). Membership was a direct hit and totaled 15,000 by the top of 2020. At about $95 a yr or $9.50 a month, members had been including important income.

By the top of 2021, Il Put up was now not dropping cash, largely as a result of success of the membership program, which had grown to 50,000 members.

In an interview (Italian) with the media trade journalist Valerio Bassan, Sofri mentioned that Il Put up anticipated to complete 2021 with 55% of its income coming from memberships, 35% from promoting, and the remaining from “all the things else”.

How they did it

A significant driver of membership development was to make their standard every day podcast, Morning, out there solely to paying members. It’s a information evaluate produced by deputy editor Francesco Costa. Whole listenership dropped, however extra paying subscribers got here on board simply to listen to Costa. He is called a witty commentator on US politics and tradition and is creator of the favored e book Questa è l’America (that is America).

One other contributor has been the manufacturing of two print merchandise, Cose spiegate bene (issues defined effectively), one about books and one other about gender. They bought about 3,000 copies on-line earlier than being out there in bookstores. Each had been on the non-fiction best-seller lists and had been reprinted twice, Sofri mentioned. The third one, about all facets of authorized and unlawful medicine, has simply been printed. All three had been out there on Amazon this month for €18.05 every.

Since I interviewed Sofri in 2020, he has turn into extra reluctant to speak about particular income or membership numbers. He instructed Bassan that the subscriber numbers reported by information websites aren’t licensed by unbiased our bodies and are used for promotional functions. So even the numbers he himself may give out ought to be seen with skepticism.

As well as, the numbers which are disseminated by others typically embody subscribers within the trial part or who’ve taken benefit of promotions at discount costs, Sofri mentioned. “For us it’s totally different: all our subscribers are energetic and pay the total subscription worth.” Evaluating Il Put up’s numbers with these of different publications can be deceptive, he steered.

What in regards to the 50,000?

A couple of weeks after the interview with Bassan, he gave an interview to the UK’s Press Gazette whose headline learn “Il Put up: How a brand new sort of stories model for Italy attracted 50,000 paying members.”

Sofri instructed me final week that he was not the supply of the determine. He wouldn’t confirm the quantity utilized in Press Gazette however a educated supply confirmed its accuracy for me.

The purpose is that this publication is doing effectively in an uncommon media atmosphere of fast change in platform applied sciences in addition to person tastes and habits. The workers has doubled to 30 journalists from 2020. However the objective stays the identical, to spiegare bene (clarify effectively) the fact of what’s taking place in Italy and the remainder of the world.

The articles printed by journalists shouldn’t have bylines, Sofri instructed me, as a result of he doesn’t need readers making an attempt to guess at their motives moderately than on the info that they current.

UPDATE: Sofri printed the ultimate figures for 2021 in a weblog publish on Could 6 (Italian). Briefly, income grew 76% over the earlier yr, and the publication ended 2021 with a surplus of 659,000 euros. The primary motive for development was a 121% improve in subscription income. The excess will likely be used to speculate primarily in additional individuals, improved expertise, and new initiatives.

Luca Sofri, founding father of Il Put up


Il Put up illustrates a actuality of media enterprise fashions at present. Every one must be distinctive to the actual market circumstances, the competitors, consumption habits, and the abilities of the workers, amongst different variables.

Il Put up appears to have discovered its area of interest. In a media ecosystem flooded with inane, trivial, deceptive, or false data, its worth proposition is to provide reliable data related to individuals’s every day lives.

This worth proposition is what it has in widespread with publications like Mediapart in France (investigative journalism behind a paywall) and in Spain (unbiased information with a freemium mannequin of membership).

The ever-more considerable research of public-service journalism around the globe — Inflection Level Worldwide and Unesco’s World Traits in Freedom of Expression in Media Improvement, to quote two present examples — current some widespread components of profitable, viable enterprise fashions.

Those that develop giant sufficient to compete with conventional media, reminiscent of Mediapart and, normally begin with giant quantities of monetary capital (within the case of Il Put up, about 1 million euros from 5 traders, in keeping with the Press Gazette) or social capital within the type of veteran journalists with good reputations and huge followings. Normally they’ve each.

However for smaller digital natives, three of the most typical and necessary components:

  • they focus first on the wants and needs of the customers of their on a regular basis lives moderately than on advertisers
  • they deal with journalism as a public service moderately than a profit-making enterprise
  • they innovate and experiment regularly to reply to altering applied sciences and person wants

I plan to maintain watching Il Put up. They may give you one thing else we are able to all be taught from.

James Breiner

This text was initially printed on Entrepreneurial Journalism, and is republished with permission.
You possibly can join with James Breiner on LinkedIn right here.


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