Paywalls Get Another Recruit

MPP Global Posted by MPP Global on Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Men’s Lifestyle Magazine Blokely has just announced this week its intention to put up a paywall and abandon display advertising, determined to maintain and develop its brand by the quality of its content; money spent on talented writers is the way to achieve that they say.

Less than a year old, it intends to have a discounted rate available for a longer subscription and seems confident that the success stories of companies using a paywall will firmly establish the magazine with its targeted audience.

It is taking the precaution of providing a rolling news panel and one free story for non subscribers so that those declining to subscribe may not completely ignore the magazine and they may change their minds in the future. Investment in quality writers and the removal of over saturated display advertising is the way forward according to owner and founder, James York.

There is a widely held acceptance that visitor numbers drop when a paywall is put in place, but it is how far the numbers drop that matters; advertising revenue is important and that is an important consideration to take into account. The initial drop in revenue can be high but the positive alternative revenue once the brand is established as a quality “must read” journal can more than compensate. As in any budgetary planning, it is just a matter of making the calculations and monitoring progress.

The Times and Sunday Times’ numbers did not drop as far as the number crunchers had predicted when the paywall was put in place and observers feel that the benefit of a far more targeted audience may persuade others to follow suit if the current figures can be maintained. Their subscription audience has a value and that audience was greater than envisaged at the launch of the concept.

Stronger publications use a different formula to decide on the value of a paywall. General news is available though many publications,as newspapers can make a case that its writers and content make it that little bit special, may well benefit from the introduction of a paywall. After all it would soon establish a targeted database of far more value to companies wanting to target their own specific markets; it’s more than just a numbers game.

The process is ever evolving and all the companies that have introduced the concept factored into their thinking a drop in numbers but an increase in quality. It is a process that is ever changing and being monitored on a regular basis.

As with the decision that Blokely has taken, several publications have kept a foot in the free of charge market for a proportion of their stories whilst concentrating on providing added value for the subscription publication, a concept known as hard and soft paywalls.

Some publications also allow a first click free, in other words the opportunity to read a story without the ability to surf the whole publication. It means once again that the publication has the opportunity to retain its position in the mind of a non subscriber who may yet change his or her mind. The debate will continue but Blokely certainly thinks that it is the way forward.