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Fun with Paywall Pricing Strategy: When to Ask Them to Pay

If you struggle with determining paywall pricing and strategy, you’re not alone.

In recent years, publishers have been testing paywalls, and for good reason. Hearst, for example, tested a paywall that changed based on what the reader was consuming. Instead of letting editors choose which content was free, and which was premium, the habits of first-time readers predict when they should hit a paywall and are shown a subscription offer.

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The idea is that users who consume more content will be more willing to pay than those who are infrequent visitors or who don’t hit a second or third page. So the user experience is less aggressive for casual visitors, and more so for those who are truly consuming the content. The offers are also aligned with the content read, something we’ve always suggested as a part of best-practice 3C Zone Architecture for a magazine website. So someone reading the sports section on a Hearst news site gets a sport-themed ad.

What magazines can learn from the newspaper industry paywall pricing

I was speaking with a colleague the other day who had crossed over from the magazine industry to newspaper publishing and back about consumer marketing trends. It will be interesting to see how lessons learned from the newspaper industry move into the magazine industry over time. Daily newspapers are both financially larger than the average magazine and get much higher prices per subscriber. Thus it makes sense that a lot of pioneering work will happen with the big daily newspapers that can trickle down into the magazine industry.

He noted that another trend was variable retention pricing based on engagement level, demographics and other attributes that can be accumulated around individual subscriber profiles.

I also recall an industry pundit who pointed out a few years ago that all of the technologies required to be successful digital publishers were already in place, but that his firm estimated that it would take about 100 years for us to fully deploy across the industry.

But we’re not just looking at advancement in flexible and “smart” paywalls, but also in dynamic renewal pricing. If you’re offering up a paywall to the most engaged readers, you are also getting data that says they’re willing to pay a higher price. The more active a user, the more they desire the content.

All of these factors show flexible engagement: looking at engagement and deciding how much content to give away.

The biggest question we get is, how much free content is enough? And you have to be careful when you’re a special interest publisher comparing your own paywall model to the New York Times or the Financial Times who have historically given away a lot of free content. Why? Because they publish a lot more content than you.

Your goal is to establish a sampling mentality. How much access you need to give, in order to obtain a subscriber?

As a quick refresher from our post on 5 Metered Paywall Best Practices, this is where we feel special interest publishers should start their journey with paywalls, if you don’t have the budget of Hearst to create such a dynamic paywall, but still want to make a metered paywall work:

  1. Give away three views per magazine per month. Our publishing partners have found that this is a sweet spot that remedies all of the obstacles above.
  2. Make clear that the content is premium when they are reading it, with an alert or pop-up on the bottom of the page that tells them it’s premium and gives them the number of remaining premium articles they have access to.
  3. Design the paywall to be easily read, understood, and acted upon. That means designing in landscape for desktop, and in portrait for mobile.
  4. Include an email field in the metered paywall floaters, that way you can register their email and sign them up for your newsletter and if they abandon the paid order, you’ll still be able to engage with them.
  5. For our publishing partners, we create four versions of each paywall floater to let the subscriber know where they are on their journey. The first three have links to login, continue to the article, and a button to subscribe. The only difference is the counter (which says if you have read 0 articles, 1 article, 2 articles). The last one has a message that they have viewed all their articles for the month, includes a link to login, a “not now” link that redirects to the home page, and button to subscribe.

Some feedback I received from a colleague recently was that using dynamic pricing like the paywall Hearst is implementing, didn’t work for new business. They needed to keep the initial offer low, instead of complicating the pricing structure up front. I think success can vary with a few things in mind.

The first thing we figure out is how much to give away for free – and while you can use the best practices above for most special interest publications, it depends on the content among other things.

Next, we determine the best renewal price, which depends on the type of content and engagement. Like Hearst, this follows the principle that the more they consume the more they’re willing to pay when the renewal comes up.

In fact, the daily and weekly meetings that Hearst is having between their teams and marketing directors to come up with new paywall ideas reminds me of our growth meetings with our publishing partners. This is where we compare notes across the Mequoda network and figure out what we’ve learned from one of our 100+ subscription offers currently running for print, web, and tablet editions amongst clubs, bundles and libraries.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!

Sincerely,

Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at kim@mequoda.com and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.

 

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