In a web environment where majority of respected publishers offer content for free, many media companies find themselves facing unfortunate economic realities. Incentivizing subscriptions and maintaining a paywall has become increasingly difficult; consumers are flocking to free sources of premium content, leaving publishers with a core of loyal customers and few new prospects.
Fortunately, there are still ways for savvy marketing and content strategies to increase paywall subscriptions for digital publishers and allow top-notch content to continue generating revenue. We’ll get to those, but first, let’s consider the challenges facing the industry.
Challenges Publishers Will Have to Overcome in 2015
- More Competition for Web Traffic – Optimized websites of yesterday are digital pariahs today—many of the best developed sites on the web have seen huge reductions in traffic as they fail to adapt.
- Readers Less Willing to Pay - This is of course the ‘big one’ to tackle, but also relatively easy to challenge: Offering unique, interesting content and building intimate, effective relationships with your consumers will still increase paywall subscriptions for digital publishers.
- Reduced Advertiser Interest -Publishers looking to profit should carefully consider what they can offer to advertisers—and more importantly, what they can prove they can offer to advertisers. For example, estimated impressions are good, but actual campaign ROI is better.
- Old Strategies are Failing to Deliver - Old systems aren’t performing as well as they did in years past. Email databases produced from purchased lists and other decaying methods continue to lose profit potential, while effective SEO and back linking tools no longer work in the wake of Google algorithm changes, and securing your content becomes ever more difficult.
Thinking Like a Marketer
Before you bury yourself in the technical details of the processes behind driving paywall subscriptions, take a moment to put on your ‘marketing’ hat. Publishers that can’t think as marketers in their development of content, website design, campaign planning, etc., will have a steep uphill battle to win over new customers.
Your audience will almost certainly be smaller than that of sites offering free content, which means you must profit more efficiently from those consumers. By focusing on what your reader wants instead of what you're selling, you'll better position yourself as a premium content provider. Site behavior, along with demographic and psychographic insights can be used to glean this insight and guide you in creating and targeting your content offers.
Refining Your Audience Development Strategy
To continue thriving as a paid-subscription publishing site, media companies can find refuge in utilizing inbound marketing best practices in combination with a modernized audience development strategy. Once you know what your customer wants, the next step is figuring out how to translate those needs into content offers that eventually drive subscriptions.
Refine your content, tailor your campaigns, and thus develop an audience prepared to spend as you want them to. Segment your readers and approach those segments with targeted content offers that move users along their buyers’ journeys. Time, money, or any other resources spent on generic monetization strategies are often fruitless efforts—high traffic, low conversion means wasted profits.
By building a system of SEO-optimized landing pages, email marketing, social media outreach, etc., all designed to funnel qualified consumers into your publication network and into a position to spend, you can provide:
- Yourself with a captivated audience.
- Advertisers with a high-value market to work with.
- Consumers with content they’ll love to pay for.
Building a Relationship
It bears restating in unambiguous terms: Your relationship with your consumers is the only thing keeping them from leaving your site for one with free content. Even excellent content will lose attention if you take actions that harm your consumer relationships. This is why we need to focus on quality editorial, website usability, and inbound marketing systems that develop relationships in a manner not unlike a well-trained sales rep working a potential customer.
Think of initial free offers as a “try-before-you-buy” experience, in which you’re given a change to prove your publication worthy of your readers’ dollars.
Crunching the Numbers
Once you have your campaigns in place and sales pipeline full, its important that you have the tools at hand to observe, analyze, and refine your efforts. To increase conversion rates, see where people are dropping off throughout your campaign, then drill into what is causing those leaks in your funnel.
Web analytics ranging from page views to conversion rates to customer satisfaction reports all deserve attention—and the more hard data you can develop on site performance and audience behavior, the better you can appeal to advertisers and other secondary monetization schemes beyond your paywall.
Ultimately, for publishers looking to increase paywall subscriptions in 2015, there’s no real ‘secret’ to reveal. Sound inbound marketing efforts, high quality content, and maintaining relationships with a focused customer base isn’t complicated, but it takes work. Stick with it, and you’ll reap the profits others have lost.