By: Karina Fabian, Marketing Communications Specialist
Once upon a time, paywalls were a black-and-white, pay-to-play proposition. Then came paymeters, and now, smart paywalls. The game has changed, and with it the philosophy behind the purpose of a paywall. It’s no longer a wall, or even a gate, but rather a path to gaining subscribers.
In previous blogs, we discussed the pros and cons of paywalls, some tips for best use, and the move from paywalls to paymeters to smart paywalls. Now, NEWSCYCLE Solutions’ Dana Midby, VP of Product Management, and Jason Goldberg, Sales Engineer, discuss the future of paywalls and Newscycle’s role.
“It’s a path to paid that we’re talking about now,” said Midby. “In the past, paywall implementation was black and white. Now, this whole journey can include steps that engage the consumer and learn more about the consumer until we’ve made a subscription enticing. They can see the value. They are highly engaged and ready to subscribe.”
However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all journey.
Just like there are multiple types of paywalls, there are multiple paths to paid. For example, Goldberg noted that “paid” does not have to mean monetary payment, but rather a barter – information for viewing. The surveys on YouTube that sometimes interrupt a song are a good example.
“These kinds of paywalls drive value by asking questions because information about a reader has value in itself,” he said. Understanding your audience can help you target advertising and develop a relationship with your readers that can lead them toward subscriptions.
Another path to paid that is gaining popularity is the newsletter subscription model. These often start with free email newsletters to gain leads. The leads build a larger engaged audience and provides you useful behavioral knowledge. The readers are then offered paid subscriptions to just the information that interests them, provided by newsletters that offer greater depth as well as focus. Once that relationship is established, an offer is made to a more general subscription.
This, of course, requires a paywall that can judge reader behavior.
“If someone is reading fashion, you wouldn’t pop up asking them to subscribe to the sports newsletters. Smart paywalls help you to have the right recommendation for the newsletter to move the reader further in the engagement funnel,” Goldberg said.
Another way smart paywalls help is by understanding how the reader came to a subscription in the first place. For example, was the reader romanced through the media sites’ funnel or did they decide to subscribed because of an outside prompt, such as a Groupon? (Groupon-inspired subscriptions generally have lower retention rates.) Or you may want to offer a different deal to someone who came to your site directly rather than by following a Google result.
“It’s the path they walk down from the anonymous reader to one where they are paying and continuing to pay – the launch from paid to loyal,” Midby concluded.
Newscycle works with its partners to make sure its paywalls help you lead your readers down the path to paid. The key, Goldberg said, lies in flexibility and understanding the audience.
Goldberg said, “Changing your metering strategy leads to success. The worst thing you can do is put up a paywall and leave it. The whole idea behind smart walls is they have to be a living breathing process. Without analytics, they never seem to be successful They have to be monitored and analyzed – who is coming to the site, what offers are they accepting, what might make a good a/b test.
“If you leave a paywall alone, you will have the same results week after week. You want to measure results and move with the successes. You may find political articles of a particular approach have more weight in enticing subscriptions, or maybe certain authors or editors drive more conversions.
“Our partners provide easy-to-read dashboards to analyze the analytics to uncover the opportunities. You’re not crawling through a bunch of statistics; you are reading dashboards and graphs that show how things are related. You don’t need data scientists and a team to determine what’s working and what’s not,” he said.
Other strengths of Newscycle’s paywalls include different levels of complexity to meet your needs and experience levels, and an understanding of the challenges newspapers have in moving from print to digital.
“We’ve been providing paywalls to the news industry for over a decade. We know that digital is the future, but you can’t look to the future without embracing the past,” Goldberg said. “We can bridge the gap, so you can serve all your customers’ needs.”
“The path to paid can go in many directions,” said Midby, “but whatever path or paths you offer, they should be accompanied by quality content and a simplified and delightful sign-up process to realize the highest level of success. We can help with that, too.”
To learn more about Newscycle Solutions’ subscription and paywall solutions, check out our audience webpage.