Paywall Experimentation is a Digital Publishing Trend

Digital publishing news for September 5, 2013

Publishers have been experimenting with their paywalls all summer. See why paywall experimentation is a digital publishing trend.

Esquire’s Paywall Experiments

Esquire has been testing all kinds of paywall experiments this summer. FOLIO reports that in July it put “one of its magazine features behind a paywall. “The Prophet”—for sale on for $1.99.” FOLIO also interviewed  Tyler Cabot, articles editor for Esquire about their paywall experiments.

When Cabot was asked about how successful the experiment was, he added,”I can tell you that our conversion rate is up to 5 percent. It’s still selling. And somewhere around 42 percent of people who start purchasing it, end up finishing [the purchase process].”

The World’s Most Interesting Paywall?

There’s a new article on what The Sun is up to and it discusses what may be one of the most interesting paywall experiments we’ve ever seen.

“The company is launching a new digital subscription package today that turns their online website into a Paywall, where you have to take out a membership to read their articles. What is very exciting, is how the Sun is taking a departure from the standard way news companies make money online and doing some fairly innovative things.”

Here is how they’re doing things differently: “Every issue of the newspaper will have a code that can be redeemed to get a free digital edition of the paper or read the news within their official mobile apps. If you redeem 20 codes in any given month, you are being given the next month for free.” It’s like a loyalty program for print readers. Brilliant!

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.

NYTimes Introduces Metered System to Mobile Users

On June 27th, The New York Times will implement the same metered system it uses on the web to its mobile users. The metered system allows non-subscribers access to three articles per day, but if the reader wishes to read more than three, they will be asked to subscribe. For now, video will remain free, but content will be limited.

In addition, the Times is launching a 7-day trial in their mobile apps so that these new users will have a lower barrier to entry on accessing extra articles once they’ve surpassed their allotted three.

“In April, New York Times said its operating income nearly doubled in the first quarter, as cost reductions and an uptick in the Times’s digital subscriptions business offset a broader slowdown in advertising revenue,” reports WSJ.

Digital News Pays Off

In 2012, 9% of people paid for digital news, says a new report from the Reuters Institute at University of Oxford. In 2013, that number is up to 12%. The number is also up in the UK, France, Germany and Denmark. The UK and France both jumped five percentage points. As we know, paywalls reduce website traffic, sometimes up to 90%, like the Times.

However, as the Guardian puts it, “The lesson is that this can be an acceptable business outcome only if more income is gained from consumers than advertising revenue lost due to reduced traffic. By contrast, freemium and metered models have reduced traffic by only 5% to 15% – thus showing it is possible to effectively generate both sales income and traffic-driven advertising income.”

Chronicle Drops their Paywall

In August Poytner reported that the San Francisco Chronicle has removed their paywall. The paywall didn’t last long as it was first put up in March of 2013.


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