What’s next in reader rev­enue?

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - News - T ▶ By Ben Shaw colum­nist

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Where will you find your next dig­i­tal sub­scribers? Is your tech get­ting in the way? Has your paid con­tent of­fer­ing stalled? Are you us­ing all the new tools avail­able?

In May, WAN-IFRA con­vened a group of Europe’s fore­most reader rev­enue minds for a three-day sum­mit in Frank­furt to dis­cuss the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in paid con­tent and to chart the fu­ture course of paid con­tent strat­egy.

Cur­rently in Europe, mod­els that in­volve re­cur­ring pay­ments per­form bet­ter than any pay-per­ar­ti­cle model. Ac­cord­ing to the Reuters In­sti­tute Dig­i­tal News Re­port 2016, in coun­tries with on­go­ing pay­ments from read­ers, rev­enue per reader is higher.

And ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey from Amer­i­can Press In­sti­tute, sub­scribers are clearly sig­nal­ing that pub­lish­ers can­not cost-cut their way to growth. At­tract­ing sub­scribers re­quires in­vest­ment in pre­mium news con­tent and fo­cus­ing on au­di­ence needs.

There is an even split be­tween pub­lish­ers who were us­ing freemium and hard pay­wall, with most pub­lish­ers hav­ing one or the other. How­ever, one in­ter­est­ing devel­op­ment is that many pub­lish­ers who were em­ploy­ing the me­tered model are now ex­per­i­ment­ing with what is called a hy­brid model. Hy­brid mod­els com­bine el­e­ments of the me­ter and the freemium model. This al­lows for both max­i­miz­ing ad rev­enue and be­ing able to as­cer­tain, and act upon, what types of con­tent con­vert sub­scribers most ef­fi­ciently.

Anna Care­borg, head of pre­mium for Swe­den’s Sven­ska Dag­bladet, shared de­vel­op­ments at the na­tional ti­tle. The me­ter, along with free tri­als, was in­tro­duced in 2013. In 2015, some ad­di­tional pre­mium con­tent (marked on the site) was added to that. The rea­sons for mov­ing to hy­brid were that they re­al­ized their jour­nal­ism was es­sen­tially seen as free, that it’s of­ten very hard to ex­plain a me­ter and that there was no clear value for their print sub­scribers to en­ter the dig­i­tal world.

As a re­sult, she says, they found that the top con­vert­ing con­tent is rel­e­vant jour­nal­ism within the news­feed, the use­ful stuff in read­ers’ daily lives. Con­tent that gets users to log in (tak­ing the first step to a sub­scrip­tion) in­cluded in­ter­est/ iden­tity and dig­i­tal only con­tent like quizzes and cross­word puz­zles. Logged- in read­ers con­sume guides, arts con­tent etc. In­ter­est­ingly, Care­borg found the need for mul­ti­ple types of con­tent. “Once some­one is a pay­ing sub­scriber, they love the arts cov­er­age, but not enough to con­vert them in the first place.”

Heikki Sil­ja­maki, devel­op­ment man­ager of con­tent sales for the Fin­nish Kaup­pale­hti, shared re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences at the fi­nan­cial ti­tle. The me­tered pay­wall was in­tro­duced in 2012 with three ar­ti­cles free, and then, upon reg­is­tra­tion, users got an­other 25. Two price points and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween con­tent on­line and in print. By 2015, the model reached a plateau. The me­ter strat­egy was then re­newed; reg­is­tra­tion only was elim­i­nated, as was the lower priced news-only prod­uct. Read­ers get five ar­ti­cles free per week, then they must sub­scribe. As with many pure me­ter mod­els, it too be­gan to plateau. Re­cently a hy­brid model was launched, with three to five ar­ti­cles a day marked as pre­mium. Their move is on track to dou­ble the weekly pay­wall hits, while at­tract­ing new trial users and leads for sales.

Un­der­stand­ing the au­di­ence

Kalle Jungkvist, WAN-IFRA prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant, lead much of the sum­mit and of­ten fo­cused on the im­por­tance of “do­ing your home­work” as a pre­req­ui­site for paid con­tent suc­cess. “The winners in the me­dia in­dus­try are the ones who know ev­ery­thing about their cus­tomers. Pub­lish­ers must fo­cus on their most loyal users and on learning as much as they can about them,” Jungkvist said.

What sto­ries do your most loyal read­ers re­ally en­gage in?

Why are peo­ple at­tracted to your pub­li­ca­tion and what kind of prob­lems do the read­ers want to be solved?

When are the dif­fer­ent types of con­tent con­sumed?

Where, in which sit­u­a­tion and on what plat­form is your con­tent con­sumed? Who are they?

What con­verts read­ers?

Pub­lish­ers must also spend time and set up pro­cesses to un­der­stand what types

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