Subscription Models Evolve for Multiplatform Publishers

Subscription models for WSJ and Bloomberg Business have varied results; Facebook bringing new subscription option for publishers

Subscription models are always evolving with technology and audience interests. Today we’re looking at some subscription models and strategies, including successes and failures of them.

We begin today with WSJ, which experienced a loss in traffic after changing its subscription model and tightening its paywall. Bloomberg Technology reports, “After blocking Google users from reading free articles in February, the Wall Street Journal’s subscription business soared, with a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. But there was a trade-off: Traffic from Google plummeted 44 percent.”

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Why did WSJ end up losing all of this traffic? “After the Journal’s free articles went behind a paywall, Google’s bot only saw the first few paragraphs and started ranking them lower, limiting the Journal’s viewership.”

“The Journal’s experience could have implications across the news industry, where publishers are relying more on convincing readers to pay for their articles because tech giants like Google and Facebook are vacuuming up the lion’s share of online advertising.”

Next, we move to a story about Bloomberg Businessweek, which has relaunched subscription models for regional experiences. AdWeek reports, “Bloomberg Businessweek is going the paywalled route (after the first four stories each month) and is offering two subscription models: digital only and all access. The digital only offering is actually more than digital only, and includes 6-8 print issues per year. It also comes with access to a redesigned app and a new newsletter called Daily IQ that hits inboxes each afternoon.”

The all access will give you everything in the digital subscription plus the weekly print magazine and additional offerings in line with its self-description of the subscription as a membership: access to a quarterly conference call and free livestreams of certain Bloomberg events.”

As mentioned above, these changes to the subscription models will include regional content. “Many of the new offerings are differentiated by region. The magazine itself will come in three different versions–an American, European and Asian edition. The newsletter and app will each offer differentiated content by regional as well.”

Our last story looks at a new subscription option coming from Facebook. Digiday reports, “Facebook is working on plans to let people pay to subscribe to publications through its app by year-end, according to publishers.”

Publishers have lobbied Facebook for this since the platform introduced its fast-loading Instant Articles two years ago. Instant Articles was designed to keep people in the app, rather than clicking through to the publisher’s site, where the publisher could offer them subscriptions.”

The article continues with a look at the potential details that may be involved in the subscription model. “There are a lot of details to be worked out, including what the model would look like, what subscriber data publishers would get and how the revenue would be distributed. Facebook has moved toward a metered model, and while nothing is final, the latest proposal involves a metered model where users could read up to 10 articles for free a month before being required to subscribe. Publishers would be able to decide if each article is subject to that meter, free or behind a hard paywall, according to people familiar with the discussions.”

Are you wondering about subscription models you can use for your content? If so, get in touch with us today. We have helped an array of multiplatform publishers set up, run and optimize successful subscription websites.


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