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In an effort to increase paid subscriptions, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last year began experimenting with changes to the mechanics of its paywall.
As part of its experimentation, the WSJ began limiting access to its content through Google's First Click Free program.
The Times launched 'The Times of London Weekly', its international digital offering, last month.
After investigating the app, I loved the idea of it and wanted to try a subscription for a month or two.
One problem, I can't get it in the UK. It's an interesting quirk of the all-or-nothing subscription model; let's take a look in more detail.
Many major newspapers, in an attempt to improve digital revenues, have implemented paywalls of varying severity.
I've been looking at US and UK newspaper sites to see which approaches are likely to be most effective in converting visitors into subscribers...
Stories from The Guardian are tweeted on average 392,358 times per week making it the most popular newspaper in the UK on Twitter.
This is followed by The Daily Telegraph (307,690 tweets) in second place and the Daily Mail (237,381 tweets) in third, meaning that the Daily Mail’s content is 92,000 tweets less popular than The Guardian’s.
Not long ago I interviewed Beverley McIntyre, director of member services and support at News UK.
The extent to which a paywall has changed life at The Sun is quite remarkable. Last weekend, fingering Twitter, I saw that The Times and Sunday Times is offering a free iPad Mini to anyone taking out a premium subscription.
This intrigued me and I looked further at The Times member page, a more advanced product than The Sun when it comes to paywalls at News UK, having been in place for a while longer.
I saw a lot of features that I take to be trends in publishing strategy, customer support and web design.
Here they are...
The Financial Times has launched a daily digest email called First FT.
I've noticed a retro trend for daily and weekly digest emails from publishers, with Quartz' version regularly cited by digital folk as the first thing they read in the morning.
Here's why email is enjoying a bit of a resurgence. I've included some examples of other publishers and their daily digests.
I'm as keen as anyone for journalism to become financially sustainable again.
But every time I click an interesting link in a tweet and smash up against an inflexible paywall, my heart rather sinks.
It's a prime example of an interface challenge for an imperfect system. And crucially, it stems incoming traffic and good will.
The freemium model is spreading in B2C and B2B, as are paywalls more broadly.
At a recent publishing conference, long gone were the days of impassioned debate about whether a paywall is ‘right’.
The revenue models are working for many and an over-reliance on advertising revenue has been addressed, albeit with mobile making online advertising more lucrative (and to a lesser extent, contextual, programmatic and native ads).
The original discussion seemed about more than revenue, as if the whole concept of the web was under threat. Academics were writing about the democracy of the internet and whether this would be eroded by a dearth of free news content.
Of course, it’s silly to think that ethics play any part in the discussion. Once some companies proved the ability to sell combined subscriptions and then digital only subscriptions, the bandwagon was jumped. These are businesses after all, and many had been in trouble for years.
In this post I’ll detail some examples of approaches to metered paywalls, and look at what factors influence paywall strategy.
But that’s sort of the joy of discussing media companies, how do they become more than mere old fashioned publishers. How do they find new streams of revenue and restructure so that subscriptions work and digital actually makes some money?
One of the spots at the aforementioned conference was CEO of the Financial Times, John Ridding having a fireside chat with Ken Doctor, President of Newsonomics.
Many interesting facts, figures and opinions were teased out, so I thought I’d round them up here.
Yesterday, the Telegraph announced the introduction of a 'metered paywall' which allows visitors to read up to 20 articles before having to subscribe for more.
There are two options: a 'web pack' which allows access to the website and content via apps at £1.99 per month, and a 'digital pack' which adds tablet access and loyalty club membership at £9.99 per month.
But can a paywall ever be a good idea for a general news site like The Telegraph though? And how will it affect the newspaper in terms of SEO and traffic to its ecommerce pages?
For many newspapers, the decision to erect a paywall has been a decision of last resort.
And for a seemingly good reason: despite the obvious need to generate the type of revenue that advertising often can't provide alone, asking the consumers of your content to pay for the privilege can be a difficult undertaking.
Can paid content save newspapers? For many newspapers, there is good reason to be skeptical.
But trying to get readers to pay for content is a necessary move and naturally, major dailies like The New York Times are having an easier go of it.