Viability of digital subscription in Uganda: an analysis of Chimpreports’ paywall

Alex Taremwa Mr, Aga Khan University


Digital Media in Uganda is experimenting with subscription-based models as an alternative to the traditional advertising model and as a recovery plan from the effects of COVID-19. The objectives for this study were: to identify critical success factors for subscription-based models in digital media platforms, to analyse audience consumption habits vis-a-vis payment for digital content on ChimpsReports, to establish the effect of paywalls on the financial bottom-line of ChimpReports, and to establish the barriers to subscription uptake among digital media in Uganda. The theoretical framework adopted the political economy of the media and the disruption of innovations theories to investigate the viability of digital subscription. The researcher used a mixed methods approach. The study employed key informant interviews and survey as methods for data collection. The methods were aided by a questionnaire and an interview guide as data generation tools. The researcher sampled 218 respondents. The sample size was achieved through purposively sampling technique and simple random sampling technique. Qualitative data was analysed thematically and presented in form of themes. On the other hand, quantitative data was analysed using Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets and data was presented in form of tables, pie-charts, and graphs. The findings show that the increase in internet penetration in Uganda and the increase in smartphone usage are the biggest enablers of paid-content consumption in Uganda. The quality of content, poor packaging, and unfair prices by publishers were the biggest barriers to uptake of paid news content. The study concluded that digital subscription can be the leading revenue source for digital media and recommended the use of freemium and metered paywalls over hard paywalls. The researcher further suggests that a further investigation into the monetization of instant messaging apps as this is a new phenomenon that this study did not capture.