As soon as online publishers discover "paid content" as a business model for themselves, the question arises what exactly the payment barrier should look like? After all, you don't want to scare away your readers and experience drops in page impressions. This, in turn, would have a strong impact on the number of advertising plays and thus ad sales.
Various paid model approaches are available to website operators. Whether the printed newspaper as ePaper, a hard paywall for all online content, only pay after use as with laterpay or the metered model ..., there are various possibilities and combinations in the room.
A lot has been tried out over the past ten years and certain successful models tend to crystallize. Based on the South Germans with their SZ-Plus subscription offer und dem Handelsblatt online subscription I would like to show how it can work. Knowing well that these platforms are constantly evolving. It should also be noted that every publisher is different. But you can always learn something from the successful ones.
The setup of the South Germans for Plus
The process and structure should be very similar to that of Spiegel.de. Stefan Plöchinger, who was instrumental in building the subscription business at SZ, was obviously poached by Spiegel to adapt exactly the recipes for success there.
The following setup now identifies the subscription funnel to win new SZ-Plus subscribers:
- always free (News) articles
- optional free Item - in the metered model with a value of approx. 10
- always plus paid items
As far as I can tell, the SZ editorial team is encouraged to do every editorial Label articles according to this categorization. With a value, for example 1-3.
The News article would be flagged with a "1" in the CMS. Especially when the "fast content", for example DPA news, can also be read in many other places, it makes little sense to ask for money for this poor journalistic quality. This can scare readers off and the publisher may lose page impressions, which are essential for advertising bookings and sales.
There are also articles with the Mark "2", which is optionally free even if there is a higher editorial performance behind it. This is very important for a provider like Sueddeutsche, because it is a general interest publisher for as yet not subscribers Position the quality medium got to. The tactic here is dTo provide readers with a limited number of articles free of charge without Paywall. Within a certain period of time, the default is one month. In the SZ is the metered value at approx. 10. This means that a reader can read 10 articles of category “2” completely and freely, before all of them marked with “2” are only accessible with a plus subscription. Such an article will be upgraded as a Level 3 article over time and per reader.
A level “3” item is always a Paid content. This includes high-quality, researched information, data journalistic content and stories. These are never assigned to category 2. Usually these plus texts are longer. At SZ, the articles are always "readable". Ie after a few paragraphs, the paywall hides the other text.
Optimization of subscription contracts
I would always recommend reading the text to get to know the content and style of the editor. The SZ has apparently recently shortened the number of free paragraphs before the paywall hits.
This is an example how publishers can optimize sales. There are various options to test your own readers, how much to give them to read Increase conversion rate for subscriptions. A / B tests are important methods here for the responsible product manager.
The same applies to Tests on the metered value. This must be checked continuously. The SZ probably plays with certain variants, for example going down to 8. Always careful, as you mentioned, you don't want to overuse the reach of the website.
Although Traffic from non-subscription customers has become less important in Corona times is. On the one hand, because there is always a lot of demand for information and pageviews explode. On the other hand and much more essential that Reach can hardly be used for advertising. The ad bookings have plummeted by 70-90%. Therefore, right now in the Corona crisis, plus publishers can safely throw themselves on the paid content model and push aside the reservations regarding the advertising business. Most established websites try to capitalize on the situation for new subscribers, which is a valid market economy tool and rewards those who have previously relied on paid content. See, for example, the (Corona) campaign by FAZ +, editorially supported by Carsten Knop in his article "Why we make F + cheaper for you".
What about the Handelsblatt?
The Handelsblatt is currently the metered model value at 2. The publisher was one of the first to start with paid content articles and was able to test the parameters for its readers and optimize them over the years.
As an aside: This early start and know-how advantage is probably also the reason why the Handelsblatt digital subscription is not (yet!) Called “Handelsblatt Plus”. As is well known, it is often difficult for “first movers” to adapt to the market convergences that result from the accumulation of successful late bloomers.
The Professionalism at Handelsblatt can also be recognized from the fact that they use every opportunity to link readers to other articles. Whether via individual newsletter offers, the follow-tag system with which, as a registered user, you can only display the articles for which you are registering, and especially those many inText links in the articleswhich the editors set manually - as can be seen in the screenshot above.
The fact that this can also be done automatically and in a widely scalable manner in order to massively increase the range in the paywalls is also the approach with kontextR PLUS +.
Conclusion on the metered model
In my view it is Metered-Paywall is a nice opportunity for many publishers to gently approach the imaginary threshold at which the content should be paid. This can go so far that a publisher realizes that he is introducing a hard paywall everywhere. So there would only be plus items. Precisely because you have gradually reduced the metered value of free articles until it has had a negative effect in some way or not.
Basically, the metered value correlates proportionally to the brand of a publisher, its market position and thus the price for a plus subscription.
Special interest portals will tend to have lower metered values, like general interest pages.
Problems with the model
Finally, it should be noted that that Metered model with cookies works. Even if 1st party cookies are less critical in terms of future viability - see also the article "Why publishers no longer sell online ads ... ". In this way, users can set more and more granular settings in their browsers as to whether they also accept this form of user data collection. If not, these users can be difficult to track.
A tick on the metered model can also in private or incognito mode of various browsers his. Theoretically, the metered value can thus be shifted infinitely by the reader. This is technically partially solvable and, in my view, not (yet) a serious problem or reason not to test the model. Because most readers do not know such technical subtleties. This is the only way to explain the relatively low ad blocker rate of 20-25%. Low, because users who are familiar with almost all block advertising. This explains the ad blocker rate on game portals of over 80%. The kids just check it out!
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