Zeit Online Logo

ZEIT ONLINE increases its digital subscription growth by using CeleraOne


With almost 2 million readers and an edition of over 500,000, DIE ZEIT is one of the best-known weekly newspapers in the quality newspaper segment in Germany. In addition to numerous renowned print products, there is an innovative digital portfolio.


521,927 sold edition*

158,181 digital subscriptions*

*Print and digital (06/20, according to IVW)


+ 4.2% total edition **

+ 35.4% digital subscriptions **

** (06/20, according to IVW compared to 06/2019)






Uses CeleraOne
  • Since 2017
  • Paywalls
  • Audience Development
  • CeleraOne Google Amp Integration


At the beginning of 2017, ZEIT ONLINE launched its paid content model Z+ and was awarded the European Digital Award for it the following year. Just three years later, ZEIT ONLINE could convince over 150,000 readers for their digital subscriptions.

In 1996 ZEIT ONLINE started in the internet age with a small editorial team and quickly developed into one of the most popular offers for classifying online journalism.

We spoke to Sascha Bossen, Product Manager Paid Content at ZEIT ONLINE, about the beginnings and the rapid digital growth. He gave us some insights into the successful paid content strategies of ZEIT ONLINE.

Sascha Bossen, Product Manager Paid Content at ZEIT ONLINE
Sascha Bossen, Product Manager Paid Content at ZEIT ONLINE

What was the initial situation like before ZEIT ONLINE decided on CeleraOne?

In 2017 we were one of the last larger publishers to start with paid content. However, the acceptance from the user’s point of view was already so great that we could take this step without losing reach because our goal was to generate digital subscriptions while expanding our reach.

Before that, we were already successful in the market with the classic e-paper, and our apps DIE ZEIT and ZEIT Audio and saw strong edition growth. At the beginning of 2017, we started with paid content on ZEIT ONLINE and used the paywall software from CeleraOne to put selected articles on as premium content behind the paywall. The so-called Z+ article has thus become an integral part of the digital ZEIT subscription.

What was the biggest challenge for ZEIT ONLINE?

The biggest challenge at that time was unquestionable to develop a strategic approach to paid content that would enable us to evolve a sustainable business model.

“In addition to the digital subscriptions, we needed a paid content model that also drives the advertising-relevant reach. We needed a suitable technology that enables us to do this and the intelligent paywall solution from CeleraOne suited this approach best.”
Sascha Bossen
Sascha Bossen
Product Manager Paid Content

Which modules does ZEIT ONLINE use from the CeleraOne software, and why?

“We use the paywall technology with integrated audience development from CeleraOne. It enables us to use data-driven paywalls and offers based on reader engagement. ”
Sascha Bossen
Sascha Bossen
Product Manager Paid Content

That helps us to get readers more involved in our products and to engage them for coming back more often. Which allows us to convert registered readers or trial subscribers into loyal paid subscribers more easily.

For that, we use scores that calculate the likelihood of defined user groups for a subscription. We can then distribute the fitting offers to the appropriate groups based on these scores.

Segments, A / B tests, data imports, and exports, along with all possible paid content models such as freemium, metering, and hybrid give us the flexibility we need to implement successful paid content strategies.

Which paid content strategies does ZEIT ONLINE follow, and which have been very successful?

At we are successfully managing a hybrid paid content model. That means that we are using a freemium and a metering approach at the same time. Freemium means that in addition to the premium articles Z+, ZEIT ONLINE also offers freely accessible content that can be accessed free of charge. The Z+ content marked in red is behind a classic paywall. Here, readers have to subscribe to see the content.

On the other hand, there are gray Z+ articles that require registration so that readers can access the content for free. After the reader has registered, metering begins.

Registered readers are significant in our paid content strategy, as they lead to most of the subscriptions. We are aiming to get readers registered to convert them better into subscribers.

An engagement score measures how often new subscribers read ZEIT ONLINE content and whether they use other products such as our app. With personalization, we do not only want to attract new subscribers but also increase the activity of the already acquired new subscribers. That remarkably reduces the churn rate a lot.

We also differentiate between content that generates reach and those that lead particularly well to subscriptions. With our paid content strategy, we do not only focus on conversion rates but also pay attention to the leads required beforehand because it will then lead to conversions.

The online editorial team selects the articles and decides whether they go behind the red or gray paywall. In doing so, they look at which content should contribute to generating reach and which bring subscriptions.

How could CeleraOne help ZEIT ONLINE achieve its goals?

“CeleraOne covers all the functions we need and even so offers a very high degree of freedom. Mainly because of the possibility of creating user groups and addressing them individually.”
Sascha Bossen
Sascha Bossen
Product Manager Paid Content

We use this, on the one hand, to show the fitting paywall and, on the other hand, to increase retention. For example, we were able to personalize the onboarding process for new subscribers on ZEIT ONLINE using user groups. That led to a significant increase in retention.

By the end of the 2nd quarter of 2020, we had already reached over 150,000 digital subscriptions. That is + 34% compared to the same period last year. On the one hand, we were able to achieve this through the increase in readers caused by Corona. But mainly through constant optimization of the conversion and subscription funnel. We pay particular attention to retention. Because only subscribers who stay with us for 120 days or more count in our quota.


We at ZEIT ONLINE want to continue to pursue our paid content strategy in the future. However, we will continue to advance the area of ​​dynamization and personalization.