10 steps to a successful Dynamic Paywall


I saw an article recently about Facebook wanting to support Publishers to monetise their content. The whole perception on paid content has changed in such a short space of time and with proven revenues its no wonder most tabloids are starting to renovate their digital models and adopt some form of paywall.  Dow Jones CEO: 'Those who sniggered at paywalls are now blubbing into their beer' Source: Ad News

So here we can look at some of the key steps for publishers when adopting a profitable paywall.

1) Analyse your audience

Research shows that somewhere between 57 and 98 percent of visitors on websites are unknown. When monetising your content it’s important to identify user types in particular, anonymous versus registered users. This is so you are able to engage and target users by audience type.

2) Agree on content for audience groups

The one-size fits all rule wont work; personalisation is the key to stickiness and conversions. Define your content strategy correctly targeting the right demographic of users. This can also be done for anonymous users and with a high percentage of visitors that fall into this category; it’s a key one to focus on.

3) Focus on quality content

Content marketing is pushing brands to become publishers in their own right so, its paramount that publishers up their game. A commitment to high quality editorial and focusing on emerging niches will help increase eyeballs. With this inclusion of the customer journey is paramount. Users will easily switch providers if the experience is poor so ensure whether it is apps or sites, the experience is one that is user focused.

4) Decide on type of paywall suitable for audience groups

The paywall strategy extends beyond just the choice of wall; au courant content marketers are defining rules based on user journeys. For example an anonymous user who encounters a metered wall and doesn’t break the article limit each month aka the Freeloader, the publisher can reduce that users meter limit the next month to prompt them to subscribe or define a call to action that would entice some kind of activity with the user.

Here is the overall breakdown of some of the different types of paywalls available:

  • The ‘hard’ wall – no content is available until you pay for it
  • Freemium wall – restrict some content to paying subscribers while leaving other content available to all
  • Device-specific wall – charging based on method of consumption
  • Metering – a strategy very popular with publishers, offering a number of free articles before asking users to subscribe
  • First click free and sharing – control access through search and via social media links

5) Make user experience easy, registration, package options and payment

As a publisher it’s your job to make sure the user is not discouraged trying to subscribe for your content.

  1. Clearly designate paid content on your site.
  2. When presented with a paywall, provide a snapshot of the content, so the user knows what they are getting for their money.
  3. Provide an easy method to become a member. Simplest form you can make with as few barriers to entry using single and social sign on.
  4. Offer products and trials that are relevant to the user as opposed to one size fits all.
  5. Ensure the paywall works across multi devices providing flexibility to users.
  6. Make sure to get the user back to the content they want after they sign up. This can be very frustrating and could potentially damage a user's perception of your brand and keep them from renewing their subscription.

6) Incremental profiling - produce a complete customer profile

We have been widely accustomed to surfing the web aimlessly with no interruption. Distracting pop ups, alerts and adverts have successfully managed to perturb users and push them to rivals.

Incremental or progressive profiling is about building user profiles little by little over a series of touch points throughout the digital relationship with the user. This requires careful planning and having the right systems in place to properly capture and act upon data. Build on customer data using short forms or fields with single click responses over a period of time. There is nothing worse than a lousy lingering form denying further access to distract the flow.

7) Make content and subscription service available on multi devices

Content is now literally in the hands and at the mercy of every consumer with a mobile phone or ipad, it has arguably forced advertisers and publishers to make content better and more impactful in order to stand out. Furthermore, consider the amazing trajectory and focus on mobile first business models.   We are at a cross point between desktop and mobile, the ability to transition the journey from desktop to mobile needs to be robust and fluid.

8) Easy login single sign on and social sign on

Busy browsers don’t have the tolerance with multiple logins, most publishers have adopted the single sign on route connecting multiple websites and domains together to create a coherent login and registration experience for customers. Creating a singe identity for each customer with a single login will allow a customer profile to be built across all web properties and can be populated further with personal details if Social Login is offered. Additionally it allows your customers to easily navigate between sites with one social ID.

9) Segmentation

Originally, segmentation was about converting visitors to customers. However, it’s no longer just about conversion, it’s also about retention. Segmentation involves making sure members of each group have several factors in common—because it is really about targeting and the more targeted your content, the more likely you are to engage your audience and that engagement means revenue.

Audiences have clearly evolved to expect a personalised experience on publisher websites from their point of entry all the way through to a highly customised purchasing experience. And guess what, they’ll expect more on their return trip.

  • Group your audience types, (anonymous, registered, VIP)
  • Define segment types (location, gender, age group)
  • Put them into categories (Deadweight, Freeloader)
  • Define rules and calls to actions for each category (Premium article views, discount, offer).

10) Optimise 

With a plethora of news publishers it’s no picnic trying to keep customers from deviating from your property if they find more attractive options. It’s not over once a user becomes a subscriber.

As well as offering great content and remaining engaged with your users how does a publisher retain revenue?

  • A/B testing of content on site - you may be producing regular content as a way to drive traffic to your site, but are you testing that content?
  • Conducting accessibility testing to ensure content is relevant for all audiences.
  • Multi-device - content needs to be responsive cross platform so it works on mobile and tablet as well as desktop.
  • With a large population of users on social media, publishers are joining forces with Google and Facebook using delivery channels such as Google AMP and Facebook instant article to bring users back to their properties.

Overall the opinion on monetising content is shifting, however adoption continues to lag behind for some publishers. A fear of failure or the uncertain digital industry could be prompting a lack of execution. Publishers need to accept the need for diversification and adopt strategies and solutions that provide the best possible experience for their users and in turn provide new sources of revenue.

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