Managing Customer Access Through Paywalls and Subscriptions

Companies have been circulating digital content, to customers for a long time and still, for many, the problem of handling customer access and how to monetise that content resists in going away. At the start, numerous content creators thought that outside sources such as advertising would produce the revenues and the content itself could be free. For some content creators, such as the Guardian, this has been accomplished, but for others, the answer had to be discovering a process to get customers to pay for the content.

Other top publications including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist have opted for a subscription-based model to be capable of monetising that content preferably than rely on diminishing ad revenues. But the problems of digital content monetisation has grown even more complicated due to increasing digital diversity, and circumstances such as handling customer access through third-party stores like Google Play. There’s also the subject of the enhanced readiness of customers to distribute passwords with family and friends to bypass paywalls.

Maintaining Consumer Access in Digital Diversity

The discussion about paywalls proceeds to erupt with several in the media industry afraid that urging customers to pay for online content will push them away – after all, there is a lot available online for free. If you place all your content behind a paywall how do customers understand that it is meriting paying for? This is an especially agitating topic when running customer access.

Site content needs financing to deliver and in a period of digital diversity, with today’s customers accessing content through various devices, (mobile phones, tablets and laptops, all with various operating systems, multiple screen sizes and connected via channels of alternating speed, the price shifts even more significantly to be able to help a digitally distinct customer base. As a result, the test of placing limits as to what somebody can access, how frequently and at what expense becomes very complicated.

Even little changes to your digital distribution approach can have remarkable results. Handling customer access is set to grow even more challenging as the online world develops with customers possibly accessing content through various devices from TVs, cars, watches and maybe even through household appliances who knows.

Third Party Subscriptions

To increase the complexity given by digital diversity, it is also essential to consider the reality that customers are acquiring media subscriptions in multiple ways. Some come to publishers directly. However, customers can buy content subscriptions via Google Play, or Apple’s App Store. If a subscription is purchased indirectly via a third party, it is tough for the publishers to make sure that customers are continually informed of the status of that subscription.

The constraints posed by API's presented by the 3rd party carrier is restricted in the data they give. For example, several digital online newspapers are asked to carefully check when a customer has cancelled their subscription if they originally bought it via a third party. They rely on the third party telling them that the subscription has been cancelled and if this doesn't happen the customer is still able to access their subscription even though they are no longer paying for it.

Combating Password Sharing

Many digital content providers are managing customer access through subscription models whereby the customer has access to a large volume of content, over a limited amount of devices, for example, film or music streaming services. For these providers, password sharing is a huge issue as they are incapable of telling if more than one person is accessing their content.

Versatility On Call for Identity-Based Permissions

So what can digital content providers do to make sure they are using the best tactics for managing customer access and not losing revenue? One standard approach is the use of location-based recognition technology coupled with simplistic login credentials and cookie tracking, but this falls apart in circumstances where the consumer is a frequent traveller, using a VPN or looking to bypass a paywall.

Once you understand who your consumers are you can begin to gather data on them and their preferences. You are not only in a situation to develop new services and products, but you can also efficiently cross-sell existing ones.

An emerging and more adaptable strategy is the use of identity-based authorisations management where the user of a web service enters the cloud and corporate applications applying a single identity. This gives media companies the capability to offer their subscribers a single point of access with which they can access a mixture of online content applying the same credentials.

This identification can be cross-referenced against a user who has the authorisation to enable them to access the content they’ve subscribed too. Importantly, identity-based permissions allow content packages to be changed by the user – it is no longer a matter of single paywall suits all.

Targeting More Effectively and Efficiently

Managing customer access by carefully identifying who your consumer is can give the basis for a considerably more productive sales strategy. Once you understand who someone is you can begin to gather data on them and their preferences. And with that information comes the knowledge to offer further granular and targeted subscription packages to suit a consumers’ needs. It also gives you information that can fuel your product and service development.

If, for instance, you know that a significant segment of your customer base is consuming a lot of celebrity-focused content then you might need to think of funding in new services that can draw them closer to the celebrities they admire; subscription only online communities with the chance to engage direct with celebrities and commentators, exclusive access to interviews or cut-price tickets for events.

Managing customer access within identity-based permissions, consequently, is about more than just ensuring that subscribers are spending what they should be – it also allows what marketers would describe as a ‘single view’ of the consumer. If you understand and know who your consumer is you are not merely in a situation to produce new products and services, you can also efficiently cross-sell existing ones. For instance, a media publication may lead numerous conferences each year – if that publication recognises the appropriate interests of its readership at a personal level, it then has the chance to target those particular readers with very targeted offers.

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