Metered Paywall Emerges as Rising Star of Publisher Business Models

MPP Global Posted by MPP Global on Monday, 18 May 2015

The number of publishers using some form of online paywall is on the rise after publishers said they will adopt a pay-for-content model.

Since the early days of the bubble, publishers have struggled to balance the need to monetize their assets with the Web’s insatiable appetite for free content. Media owners have experimented with models ranging from advertising-funded free editions to various subscription-based initiatives; all have tried to balance the need for income with advertiser demands for sufficient reach to justify spend.

With this historical context in mind, advancements in cloud technology now offer publishers a myriad of monetization opportunities. Metering technology has emerged as one of the most popular and successful technologies in publishing to date, with variable pricing based on content-consumption, access points, and existing subscriptions. One of the biggest appeals of the metered model is that it doesn’t prohibit access to casual consumers of digital content, but it does ask loyal users to pay for a service they value.

To get some fix on where publishers stand on metered paywalls, MPP Global surveyed over 300 publishers. The research found that metered paywalls are the most common and even considered the ‘new normal’, with over 60% of publishers using or considering adopting a meter in the next 6 months.

The metered model is favored by newspapers around the world, from The New York Times in the US to the Financial Times and the Telegraph in the UK. By contrast, The Times and Sunday Times site is protected by a hard paywall, restricting all access to content unless users pay for a subscription.

While many publishers previously offered free digital content while still charging for print, this movement into paid online content has changed dramatically. The survey found that metering provides publishers the opportunity to offer its readers a balance between both, with a third of publishers stating they would provide on average access to 11-15 free articles before requesting payment.

With advancements in the industry, publishers want to ensure the business model they adopt meets the demands of their audience and offers a successful revenue stream. As a result, key themes emerged during the research:

Using Data & Analytics

Over 50% of publishers asked MPP Global “How can metering contribute data and analytics?”

With consumer demands and habits shifting in the digital landscape, publishers can use the information from the meter to create services and products which are tailored to the audience and their consumption habits, helping to drive revenue and retain customers.

Combining Business Models

A third of publishers voiced their concerns in relying on only one business model, asking “Can metering be combined with other business models?”

We have already seen publishers adopt multiple models which work alongside one another. For example, the French sports magazine L’Équipe, with a readership of more than 1.5 million, offers customers the choice between individual articles, a pack of 10 premium articles or an all encompassing monthly or yearly subscription. The Winnipeg Free Press is another newspaper who has recently announced the decision to offer pay-as-you-go articles alongside subscriptions. This identifies how publishers understand the value in providing its consumers a choice between how they access and pay for digital content.

Social Referrals

Over 40% of publishers were keen to find out about social referrals asking “Can social referrals work in collaboration with a meter?” Publishers can utilize social media referrals by adopting social metering or a sharewall, which enables them to reach larger audiences.

Attracting & Retaining Customers

Offers are an essential tool to attract and retain customers, which is why 40% of publishers asked “How can we use offers alongside a meter?” Utilizing voucher codes, publishers can create offers which enable a consumer to view a set number of pages or for a set amount of time on the website.

This has helped publishers with a metered paywall reach a nearly 60% customer retention rate.

Chief Executive Officer at MPP Global, Paul Johnson, commented “This feedback shows that metered paywalls are at the forefront of publishers’ minds and we advise that media companies embrace metering opportunities.

With the need to reach, attract, convert and engage customers, publishers can adopt business models which are relevant to their target audience and offer valuable content packages.”