World Association of News Publishers

Paid digital content: The journey begins

Paid digital content: The journey begins


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Implementing a paid digital content strategy means much more than deciding to charge users for certain articles; it touches every part of a publisher’s organisation. The strategic thinking, preparation and launch process is extremely interesting and healthy for news companies. Our Paid Content report explores that process and presents lessons learned by publishers around the world, who have agreed to share their experiences in depth.

From the table of contents of our report:

  • Introduction: Paid content and your digital strategy

  • Chapter 1: The paid content timeline. It might appear to be a new trend, but in reality the past 15 years have seen many attempts by publishers to build user-funded revenue models for content on news websites. We examine some of those campaigns and the lessons learned from them.

  • Chapter 2: Paid content, the thinking process and options. The preparation work before starting to charge digital users is complex, whichever model a publishing company chooses. Marketing is sophisticated; you need the right technologies, and most of all it only works with aligned forces within the company, ready to support this strategy and aware of the long-term effort. It does not end the day the “paywall” is introduced – it’s a marathon.

  • Chapter 3: Work on the drivers. In the future, we will see more complex models than pure freemium, metered or hard paywall. And in the end, it’s not which paid content model you choose that matters. What really makes the difference is how well the chosen method is deployed.

  • Case study: The ‘Hometown Advantage’ concept – Gannett. When people feel empowered by their community paper, they recognise that it is worth paying for.

  • Case study: Leverage exclusive strengths – Globe and Mail. When preparing for the paywall in 2012, The Globe and Mail in Canada identified categories of information that could influence a reader’s decision to take out a subscription as well as help retain the loyalty of new subscribers.

  • Case study: Solving readers’ problems – Aftonbladet. In 2003, Sweden’s launched their freemium model, under the Plus banner. Since then, the continuously compiled statistics show the topics with the best conversion rate for subscriptions.

  • Case study: The convenience trigger – RCS Mediagroup. In some markets, meeting the need for content available anytime, anywhere and on any device can represent the first step.

  • Lessons learned. Five simple lessons from paid content projects carried out in various parts of the world.

  • Five universal tips from The New York Times’ experience. The New York Times was inspired by the experience of The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times during their two years of preparation for their paid content launch. And since then they are very willing to share their own lessons learned with the publishing community.


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SFN Report
Valérie Arnould


Anton Jolkovski's picture

Anton Jolkovski


2013-07-29 12:36

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