Dubai: Gulf News has launched its digital subscription and taken a new step that further challenges digital frontiers and created a landmark moment in the publishing house’s history. As always, the media organisation has innovated and led the way. Today, too, with this bold new step, it has set a new course.
Meher Murshed, Executive Editor, Digital, explains why gulfnews.com decided to take this direction and launch the paywall, and what is on offer.
Why did you decide to launch a digital subscription?
gulfnews.com is the number one English news website in the UAE and the region. We have a very loyal readership. Our web statistics are strong because our readers have faith in our trusted journalism. We have 15 million monthly users and get 230 million monthly page views. Our engaged social audience totals more than 5.4 million. Our content is fact-checked and verified. Today, the need of the hour is to break news instantly, often compromising the accuracy of stories. We at Gulf News know speed to market is of essence and we have a driven work flow to achieve that goal. But that work flow includes fact-checking. We don’t break news unless we are a hundred per cent sure of its accuracy. And once we do break, we will make every effort to explain what that piece of news means. The reader will not have to go to other news sources to get a 360 degree view of the story. We give the break, the explainer, the analysis and the opinion. And that is why we have a dedicated audience who, as a habit, logs on to gulfnews.com. But there is a cost to fact-checked, responsible journalism, one that is not click bait or chases page views. We have to spend resources for in-depth reporting. Hence, we decided to launch a digital subscription – so we can continue giving our readers quality journalism.
We are the market leaders, we took an historic step today. We will continue to innovate... That’s what is in Gulf News’s DNA.
What is your subscription model? Premium, freemium or hard wall?
We did extensive research on the subject, and each of these models has its pros and cons. But none seemed the right fit for us. We have a very unique audience, one that is engaged and loyal. And for us, the most important point was to keep our readers with us. We value our audience, and we want to maintain that engagement. In today’s digital world, it is easy to get news from various sources, but our readers come to us as their source of news. It is, therefore, our responsibility to keep them engaged. We studied our audience’s interests, their level of engagement with our website and then over the past several months, we crafted our own model, which really is a hybrid. It offers the maximum engagement, while asking for a nominal price for the news. The price point of Dh1 a week is one of the most competitive in the world. What can you get for Dh1 in today’s world – that itself is a story.
What drove the pricing?
We have launched two digital subscription plans. Both subscription plans have a special introductory offer for a limited time period. The plans are: Standard Access Plan and Prime Access Plan. Standard Access Plan is a monthly subscription plan with regular access to gulfnews.com and is priced at Dh5.95 as an introductory offer. Prime Access Plan has both monthly and annual subscription options. It provides access to all our special content in addition to regular news coverage on gulfnews.com. The monthly Prime Access Plan is priced at Dh8.95 as an introductory offer. The annual plan is priced at Dh52 — only Dh1 a week as an introductory offer. The pricing is very competitive for a very simple reason. We understand the times we live in, we understand that news is an essential commodity. Taking all factors into consideration, we decided to launch our digital subscription with this pricing. But it is an introductory offer. Grab it till it lasts!
Have you launched new products?
Gulf News has always innovated. Many argue why launch a digital subscription when readers can get free news anywhere. Well, our strategy down our 42-year history has been one of innovation and expansion. We have always looked to introducing new products. Yes, we have the news. But we have more. It is not tied to the fact we have launched a digital subscription. We have launched five new products: Living in UAE, which tells you everything you need to know to live in the UAE, Your Money that offers guidance on personal finance, Parenting, which offers advice on children’s issues, Food that deals with cuisines and readers can relax with our Games section.
What does the future hold?
For now, we hope our readers will appreciate the products we have launched and value our fact-checked journalism. We are the market leaders, we took an historic step today. We will continue to innovate and offer new products. That’s what is in Gulf News’s DNA. That’s what has kept us engaged with our readers. We value and respect them.