Digital Subscriptions, Paid Content, Paywalls, Single Sign-on

How to start with a paid content strategy?

10 Jun, 2020 - 7 minutes read
How to start with a paid content strategy?

Paid content is booming. News publishers should start now with a paid content strategy. The reason why is simple: readers do understand the value of digital content and are willing to pay for it. For this reason, digital subscription models are more popular than ever, such as Netflix, Audible, Spotify, and co. In particular, the younger generation is willing to pay for digital content but the willingness is growing in almost every age group.

The focus on paid content means a sustainable and future-proof source of income. For a diversified revenue strategy in addition to income from print and advertising that is becoming increasingly relevant.

Especially in the time of the corona crisis, a multiple revenue strategy has proven its value, since the distribution across several revenue pillars means more stability for publishers. The decrease of print and advertising revenue contrasts with high growth in online news media. In the corona crisis, the need for information was particularly high. The numbers of unique visitors, page impressions, and digital subscriptions have more than doubled. However, the success figures rose steadily even before times of crisis.

In this article, we clarify how publishers can best use the trend towards digital payment models and their digital growth. We will further clarify how publishers can start quickly and easily with a paid content strategy.

1.  How publishers can benefit from digital growth

In the corona crisis, information requirements among users increased significantly, and traffic of news sites almost doubled. Unfortunately, these record values ​​are not reflected in advertising revenues, since many companies have cut their advertising budgets sharply during the crisis and there has been a drop in advertising sales of up to 80%.

However, news media were already growing in the months, and years before, especially the news sites, which provide their readers with added value, could continue to grow digitally.

A survey of how the newspaper industry assesses its digital revenues has shown that publishers can use it to compensate for their declining print revenues in a few years.

That shows that publishers can use their digital growth efficiently and sustainably by using a paid content strategy.

2. What is paid content and why is it important for publishers?

Paid content helps publishers to monetize digital content and is an additional channel to generate and diversify revenue. Publishers support their business model by several revenue pillars to be sustainable. In case a revenue source collapses a publisher continues to be able to act. And digital subscriptions are the right strategy to do so, and by enabling publishers to understand reader behavior and to show to them the value proposition.

Paid content is necessary in order to be able to offer quality journalism regardless of page impressions and reach. However, paid content is more than offering an e-paper or one-to-one transfer of print content to the website. Content that exploits the digital possibilities and is aimed directly at a digital audience works particularly well.

The great advantage of paid content is the ability to understand user behavior. Publishers gain unique insights into the reading habits and preferences of their readers and can thus enter into a personal relationship with them. Personalization works wonders when building a customer relationship. Personalize the communication to your readers and recommend additional content that meets the reader’s interest. 

Publishers not only can gain readers who are willing to subscribe, but they can also actively engage readers with tailored offers and lead them to a subscription. This is the biggest benefit of having a paid content strategy.

3. What does a successful paid content strategy look like?

There is no magic formula for a successful strategy that all news publishers can use equally. Paid content strategies are as individual as the target groups of the publishers are. However, they all should have in common the ability to build a relationship with their readers. No matter where readers are on the subscription journey. By making the right offer or engaging in communication at the right time, publishers can fast-track readers onto the next step.

Because increasing revenues of digital subscriptions prove that readers are willing to pay for digital offers.

But before a publisher starts to switch to a paid content model, it should be established which paywalls are used.

Publishers who do not yet use a paid content strategy and allow their readers to gain free access to all content should slowly introduce their readers to a payment model in order to not scare them away. The success of such a strategy also depends on how well publishers communicate their value proposition to convince readers to pay for a subscription. After all, readers have been used to accessing online content for free for many years.

4. What types of paid content models are there?

a) Freemium

There are various paid content models. The freemium model is one of the most popular ones. Freemium allows publishers to place free content alongside premium content. All users can read free content equally. For premium content, readers have to pay for it. The paid content usually contains the most interesting background information and is located behind a paywall. The free content usually gives the basic information about a story and triggers the reader’s desire to want more and therefore pay for it.

Zeit Online premium content
An example of premium content in form of plus articles is Zeit Online.

b) Metering

The metering model has a different approach, it allows the reader to access a certain amount of content or releases content for a set period of time before an access barrier appears. There is no division between free and premium content here. The reader gets a limited first impression of the offer, which should make the decision to subscribe easier.

c) Hybrid

A combination of the freemium and metering model is also possible. The so-called hybrid model. There is free content in addition to premium content and the reader can access a certain number of premium content as a sample.

d) Smart Paywalls

When it comes to access barriers, there is not just the possibility of the hard paywall. Hard paywalls display the same message and offer to all readers without making any difference between their behavior. Dynamic or smart paywalls can adapt to each reader and, depending on their interests, give them a fitting offer at the right time. However, there are also content gates, such as registration walls and data walls, where readers can continue to access free content by registering or providing personal information. Paywalls, registration walls, and data walls can also be combined with a metering or hybrid model.

registration wall example of sz
Or as in this example from the Süddeutsche Zeitung: Readers who use an ad blocker can choose to register and read the content for free, or to uninstall the adblocker.

5. How to start with a successful paid content strategy?

It is important to slowly introduce your readers to a payment model, if you have not yet used a paid content strategy. A registration wall is particularly suitable for this, because the registration will continue to give your readers free access to content. You then have the opportunity to get to know your readers better when they are registered and to communicate with them.

In the long term, this can convert readers into subscribers, since it is much more likely that you will develop a registered reader into a subscriber than an anonymous reader.

What you need is a registration wall and a user login.

the paid content starter edition of celeraone
We offer this with our Paid-Content Starter Edition. It enables publishers to create the first paid content strategy fast and easy.

A registration of your readers is the beginning for the further development of a subscription. Like this you can build up a pool of potential subscribers and create user segments according to content, interests, recurrence frequency, duration, number of actions taken and give offers that are suited to your each individual reader.

Readers who log in to read content are also more interested and more connected to your news site. Increase your reader’s engagement rate. It is a crucial factor in convincing your readers to subscribe.

Tips and Reminders for your first paid content strategy

  1. There are no off-the-shelf successful paid content strategies.
  2. Try out what suits your news medium and your target group.
  3. Use a paid content strategy to establish a relationship with your readers.
  4. Slowly introduce your readers to a subscription model.
  5. Use a registration wall that continues to offer readers free access to your content and the opportunity for personal communication.
  6. Create content that interests your readers and leads to a reading habit. This increases the likelihood that your readers will subscribe.
  7. The best time to start with paid content is right now. Ready to get started?
Start with a paid content strategy
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