'A lot of publishers have started to lose their brand recognition': The Daily Beast believes its most obsessed readers will pay for special access

The Daily Beast
  • The Daily Beast is the latest publisher to roll out a paid membership offering.
  • The media company joins an ever-expanding list of publishers exploring a subscription model, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Bloomberg to name a few.
  • The publisher views the subscription plan as a complementary to its growing ad business.

The digital content subscription wave continues to gain momentum.

The Daily Beast is the latest publisher to take the plunge with the rollout of a new paid membership offering that gives members early access to stories, exclusive series as well as members-only newsletters today.

With “Beast Inside” subscribers get access to six members-only products, including three newsletters, a podcast, a true-crime series and even the opportunity to be published on the site itself. The yearly subscription is priced at $US100, with founding members receiving a 50% discount for the first year.

“With the rise of new platforms, a lot of publishers have started to lose their brand recognition and connection with their audiences,” Heather Dietrick, CEO of The Daily Beast, told Business Insider. “So it’s become more important than ever to build that relationship in new ways.”

The Daily Beast, which attracts over 20 million monthly visitors to its site, says its subscription product is geared at engaging with its “sizable, hyper-engaged fans.” That group includes over a million users who contribute to nearly 50 pageviews on average per month, said Dietrick. And roughly a third of its overall monthly audience comes to the site directly.

“We’ve already invested in building a relationship with them by giving them content that they’re interested in, such as launching new verticals like science and travel,” she said. “This was a natural next step.”

The Daily Beast also took cues from reader insights to decide what content users would most likely engage with as part of the subscription. “The Beast Files,” for example, is a monthly true-crime series, which was based on the insight that three out of the top 10 stories on the news site are crime-related.

Lots of web publishers are asking readers to pay up

Subscriptions have become an increasingly popular way for media companies to diversify their revenue as well as forging direct connections with their readers in recent years. With The New York Times and Washington Post paving the way, a slew of publishers including Vanity Fair, Bloomberg and even Business Insider following suit more recently.

It’s no different for The Daily Beast, which views the subscription plan as a complementary to its growing ad business. The publisher is on track to more than double direct sales for the first half of 2018 as compared to the same period last year, said Dietrich. This month, for example, IHG’s Hotel Indigo ran a sponsorship on the site’s arts and culture section around Pride.

“It’s a nice complement in that direct revenue is individual deal-based and more spiky,” she said. “Whereas a subscription model is more consistent.”

At launch, the membership program will include the following products:

  • Rabbit Hole: An exclusive newsletter that zeroes in and goes deep on the most important story of the day that everyone is obsessing over.
  • First Look Friday: A newsletter that provides readers early access to The Daily Beast’s biggest weekend stories before they become public.
  • Cheat Sheet Your Way: A customised version of The Beast’s Cheat Sheet newsletter, which allows members to choose between Trump-free and politics-only editions.
  • Omnishambles: A podcast that takes members inside Trump’s Washington.
  • The Beast Files: Exclusive access to all chapters of a monthly true-crime story in serial format.
  • Your Turn: A modern take on letters to the editor, which allows members to share their opinions and have them published on The Daily Beast homepage.

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