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The News Site Checklist For Choosing a Paywall Subscription Model

Updated: Mar 16

With the steady decline in advertising revenue across the board, more and more news sites are shifting their focus to subscription models and many are using paywalls as a tool to drive this revenue. A recent study by the American Press Institute found that out of the 4,100 recent subscribers surveyed, half of the digital readers converted when they hit a paywall, so it’s no surprise the general move towards paywall technology is becoming the norm for publishers who are looking to up their reader revenue game.

This strategy has been quite successful for many media companies, but many are still struggling to figure out the best way to go about it. Get it right and it could increase revenue exponentially, get it wrong and you could end up losing valuable readers.

So how do you make sure you’re doing it the right way? Here are some important considerations for analyzing a paywall model for your news site.

Know Your Audience

One of the key considerations for any news site is knowing who your readers are. In fact, a recent industry survey found that audience analytics tools are at the top of the list for tools and tech that publishers intend to invest in for 2018. Over 1/3 of respondents indicated that these tools were the #1 priority. Obviously audience analysis is critical when it comes to your content and your advertising, but it’s also important as far as your paywall subscription model.

The more information you have about your audience, the easier it will be to determine what kind of subscription model to implement. But it also works the other way around. If you go about implementing your paywall correctly, the insight you gather can also give you valuable information about your audience and where to focus your editorial efforts.

When thinking about your paywall model, make sure to go with a tool that allows you to segment and target appropriately and that has an effortless, inclusive platform so your team can easily manage data and drive actionable insight. It’s also important to make sure whatever tool you use allows extensive A/B testing because sometimes your paywall can actually be one of your best audience analytics tools if approached correctly.

Test, Retest and Test Again

Speaking of A/B testing, this is an important aspect of a successful subscription model. A/B testing can work wonders, and actually helped one major news site increase their subscribers by almost 30% with a simple change in timing of the subscription offer. In one study we ran, just changing the copy to include messaging about a network, for example, offers that included access to multiple offerings or sites, saw an increase in conversions by about 30%.

There are endless testing variables. For example you could experiment with the price, the number of free articles provided, the presentation or the placement of the offer on your site.

Research Your Options

Whether you decide to handle everything in-house or use an outside entity to integrate your subscription system, make sure you consider all of the options to choose the best possible solution for your company.

Do you have the internal resources to implement the proper strategy? Does your first choice also include strategic implementation or consulting services to get a solid strategy in place and educate your team?

When researching your options, ask about ease of integration, built-in analytics, whether the platform has additional features such as a CRM to help you manage subscribers once you’ve gained them, tools to reduce churn, and what ultimately the user experience is going to be. Sometimes you can lose a lot of readers because the paywall sends them off page to subscribe, so finding a solution that integrates seamlessly with your site and offers the best user experience for your readers as well as for your team, is important.

Consider a Dynamic System

There are new and developing technologies out there and it’s important to keep up-to-date on what your options are. Dynamic paywalls with machine learning, for example, are now accessible to almost any size operation. Dynamic paywalls use machine learning to personalize the experience, determining exactly what offers to show to which people at what moment.

Paywall subscription models are here to stay, and the technology behind them is evolving on a near daily basis. If you are a paywall news site, you need to stay ahead of the curve to make sure you are maximizing your potential when it comes to subscribers.

Whether you are just in the planning stages or have had a subscription model in place for years, these tips will help maximize your results and ensure sustainability for years to come.

Ready to get started? If you’re interested in implementing a paywall subscription model, let us know! We’d love to partner with you to increase your conversions and drive reader revenue.


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