More readers, including young readers, accept subscribing to online newspapers with paywalls as a fact of life. In the United States, the number of people paying for digital news has remained stable over the past year, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2014.
Last year’s report showed an increase in digital subscriptions, and rates have apparently not dropped off, which is good news. Worldwide, Brazilians are most likely to pay for news through paywalls, with 22% doing so, Brits are least likely to pay (7%), and Americans are in the middle, with 11% willing to pay for news through paywalls. Of those who don’t pay for news, 15% say they are likely to pay for news in the future.
Maybe you run one of the many news sites that has installed a pay meter recently. Now the task is to make your site more profitable. How can you do that? Here are 5 tips.
1. Learn About Your Readers
Before you can direct your paywall strategy, you need to start amassing knowledge about your users. You can probably start doing that right now with free analytics software like Google Analytics. There’s also now a premium version for larger organizations with more data to crunch. Use analytics data to paint a picture of your most engaged users’ needs, interests, and web habits, but don’t forget to do the same for your occasional readers. This information helps you learn which content engages your readers so you can learn where your site excels and where it lags.
2. Write Engaging Content
There’s simply no substitute for engaging content. Everyone’s guilty of the occasional “click-bait” headline or list-based article, but unless you’re Buzzfeed, you’re not going to be able to make it on this alone. Quality of content is absolutely paramount.
3. Motivate Readers Based on Their Characteristics
Norwegian journalist organization STUP held a seminar in Oslo earlier this year to discuss paid readership experiences with large and small media groups. A company called Cxense, which makes audience insight software, helps publishers direct readers into the buying funnel by motivating them based on their characteristics. Analytics can indicate reader characteristics, and based on these characteristics and interests, news publishers can determine what kind of content further engages them. This can inform what kind of subscription offering readers would be most receptive to, and how those subscription offers should be presented.
4. Market Your Pay Meter
Obviously, simply installing a pay meter isn’t enough. A great promotional launch can get a news publisher started with a batch of committed readers, but then what? When a news site leaves the same promotion up on the site for too long, it essentially becomes invisible to readers. Mixing up the promotional approach can counteract this. Jeffrey L. Hartley, corporate vice president of consumer revenue for the Morris Publishing Group suggests the following steps:
• Create a digital subscription promotional calendar
• Change the message, design, and offer regularly
• A/B test offers on social media
• Make sure subscription pages look great on mobile devices
• Promote sales outside your own products
• Re-target potential subscribers with different offers
• Test different price points
• Consider selling digital bundles or individual platforms
According to Hartley, the “develop-test-launch-measure-refine” cycle should be continuous.
5. Continue Using Your Analytics
Analytics aren’t just important in getting people to subscribe. They’re always important for maximizing opportunities to increase digital subscriptions. Analytics can tell you, for example, how many unique visitors see a notification that they’ve reached their viewing limit in a given month, and of those, how many subscribed. You also need to use analytics to help you learn which subscription extension offers work best with existing subscribers. Tracking and measuring gives you more than just hunches to go on when marketing digital subscriptions.
One very exciting statistic that Hartley presents is that up to 75% of digital-only subscribers did not cross over from print. Perhaps getting print subscribers to go digital isn’t the most important thing anymore. Digital subscriptions depend most heavily on publishing outstanding content and on having a reasonable pay meter option that speaks to your readers’ needs. But you have to continue to evaluate your strategy, because in the digital world, readers and their needs will continue to evolve.