15 seconds ago we launched our latest publication -- Paywall Times -- a free news and case studies summary blog for the subscription, paid membership and paywall world.
Yes I am aware of how hypocritical it might appear to publish free content in support of the paid content industry. So, why do it?
Two reasons -- first of all I am Sick and Tired of blogs and columns about the "Debate". You know, the writers who say they cover the industry but really all they cover are back and forth arguments about "will people really pay for content, can this business model work?" That just annoys me. The business model has worked for eons, to the tune of more than $15 billion in the US alone in online content subscriptions per year. Fussing about whether it might work is pointless to me.
What matters is how to make it work better. What works. What doesn't. Who's doing what. What's going on with vendors, laws, marketing, pricing ... etc. What's the latest solid research?
My other reason is a marketing one. Many of the Case Studies my editorial team at Subscription Site Insider have published for our paying Members, have revealed that:
(a) Your paywall should be as close to the front of your site as possible. Best case: the home page is the start of the paywall. More free content equals crappier conversions. Lots of psychological reasons why, just take it from me, this is an indisputable fact.
(b) Most potential customers need to hear about you -- and hopefully interact with you -- multiple times before they make that conversion decision. If your paywall is smack dab in their face when they visit your home, the chances they'll return enough times to finally convert are fairly low. So, you have to spend a bunch of money on external marketing to get your brand in their face repeatedly until they do convert.
(c) If you own the media you want to advertise on to get the word out about your lovely paid content site, it's a lot cheaper to stick the ad there. Ok, there are still costs for audience development to that media. But we all know (or we should) how to drive qualified traffic to free content sites without breaking the bank these days.
Often paid content publishers choose a blog format as their "free content publication" because it can be great for SEO. The problem is, most just stop there. You have to use multiple audience development sources, including social media, PR and, yes, paid advertising. (Paid ads to get free content site traffic to in turn market paid content to ...oh, what fun our marketing department's results tracking spreadsheet is going to be to run.)
Which reminds me, you have to include handy opt-in and lead generation offers on your free content so when that traffic arrives, it doesn't just slide off again. Most publishers really don't do enough of that. They think that blog traffic is enough in and of itself. It's not -- it's just the start of the conversion funnel. Which your marketing department has to optimize every step of. While they're juggling a million other things all day long.
We're trying to. We'll see how it goes. If I learn something I'll post it here. I'll probably learn a lot -- what about you? Let me know.