Metered Paywall at New Yorker Working Wonders

After last summer’s content free-for-all, The New Yorker introduced a metered paywall – and saw ‘massive’ jumps in subscribers

For publishers, integrating a metered paywall into your subscription strategy has been on the table since at least 2011, when The New York Times took the plunge and not only lived to tell the tale, but also took the model to another level. Now, it’s all about theme and variation – who can deploy the tactic with the most skill and upside?

The New Yorker has emerged as a contender after establishing a metered paywall of its own in November of 2014. Prior to this, all content – including archives back to 2007 – had been free for the reading since July. During the free period, which coincided with a redesign and relaunch of, the magazine saw expected jumps in traffic and time spent reading.

But the real gains came after the wall went back up – a development that definitely wasn’t expected.

“It wasn’t a massive increase in readers between July and November. There was an increase, but there wasn’t a massive increase,” editor Nicholas Thompson told Justin Ellis in a story for the Nieman Lab. “What’s weird is we launched the paywall, and then there was a massive increase.”

In January of 2015, saw a 30% rise in unique visitors year-over-year, while subscriptions shot up a staggering 85%. The metered paywall cuts readers off at six stories. 

Now, Thompson and his staff are studying the finer points of what’s driving their remarkable audience development. And they’re focusing on time spent reading as their top metric rather than uniques and page views.

“They know people spent an average of about 17 minutes reading Ian Parker’s Jony Ive profile. The numbers for the magazine’s collections, bundles of stories from the archive around topics like directors, crime, or love, are even higher: an average of 53 minutes spent reading, according to Thompson,” Ellis writes.

In trends that will be of particular interest to Mequoda Members, newsletter readers are the most likely to convert to subscribers, and readers are responding to web-first content as much as they are to in-depth features from the magazine.

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Condé Nast Vice President of Consumer Marketing Monica Ray “credits The New Yorker’s readership gains to audience research and analysis that took place in the months leading up to the site relaunch and the period when the archive was open. Rather than complicate the paywall by weighing features and blog posts differently, they decided all stories would be equal,” Ellis writes.

Timeliness, Accessibility, interactivity, have also been keys in cultivating visitors and converting them into subscribers. Toward that end, promotion of content via social media platforms has played a big part in’s recent success after instituting a metered paywall.

Ellis also points out The New Yorker‘s ambitious multiplatform approach, which includes events, podcasts, video, and more.

What’s your experience with a metered paywall? Let us know in the comments!

To read more about The New Yorker‘s metered paywall miracle, visit Nieman Lab.


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