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More Options on Considering Your Paywalls

Apps Give Companies Another Paywall Option

Just a month ago, the publisher of Britain’s largest-selling regional newspaper, the Express & Star, altered its online payment strategy by “removing its website paywall in favour of encouraging readers to purchase iPad and iPhone apps.” The apps, which give users pdf versions of the papers, cost £1.49 ($2.35) a week or £3.99 ($6.30) a month.

There seems to be good logic behind this. A recent study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on How People Use Tablets concluded that readers using tablets and apps are more likely to pay for their news and information. According to the study, 14% of tablet news users have paid directly for news content on their tablets. Another 23% have a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that they say includes digital access. “Thus, the percent of these early tablet news users who have paid either directly or indirectly for news on their tablet may be closer to a third. That is a much higher number than previous research has found more broadly of people paying for digital content.”

So by moving to apps, a company may stand a better chance of monetizing content. The question of how much information to put behind your paywall continues to resonate. At last summer’s SIPA UK Conference, Ken Cooke of Incisive Media said that the first question to look at when it comes to paywalls is your online content. “Just because it’s monetisable in print doesn’t mean it works online,” he said. “As an example we have a publication that provides real in-depth analysis into dense topics, great looking on the page, unfortunately a 5,000-word dissertation doesn’t exactly scan well online! Beyond that, do you know what your customers really want to pay for online…and not just what
they read?”

In Cooke’s mind, content that can be monetized will accomplish these things:
1. Mitigate risk – stop the competition getting ahead, stop the subscriber making mistakes, aid decision making;
2. Allow the subscriber to save time – convenience of access, aggregation of multiple sources;
3. Increase revenue – offer leads, get ahead of competition, improve effectiveness;
4. Reduce cost – reduce information costs via aggregation, improve efficiency.

Stephen Roberts of the Guardian Business & Professional added to the subject at the Conference. He has a series of questions that he wants you to ask when developing a paid content model. These include:

1. Who are you competing with?“Information publishers are keenly aware of the need to differentiate their proposition against free sources of news and information, and understand the benefits of curation, context and searchability to professional users.”
2. Where in your industry is the need for specialized information most homogenous?“There’s opportunity when a company needs intelligence on an issue but there’s much more opportunity when an entire industry needs it.” Have you done the research, surveyed your members to stay ahead?
3. Should your sales strategies be transactional or account managed? “The need for blended paywall strategies is strongest when open content is needed for marketing, for brand building and to maintain one’s share of the conversation in niche professional contexts,” wrote Roberts. “A robust account management and business development function eliminates some of the need for open content to drive transactional sales and new business, and means that the paywall can be closed further.”
4. Seat license versus site license? A site license is tougher to sell and increases the risk of content leakage, but makes it easier to ensure that your high value content becomes an essential part of business process across the company.

One more interesting number from the Pew study: “App users are also more than three times as likely as browser news users to regularly get news from new sources they did not turn to before they had their tablet (58% versus 16% for browser users).” That’s good news for getting new subscribers.

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