Back in May, The Media Briefing published a piece on Publishers prioritising digital development over paywalls. Obviously there is an increased risk from both Cookie Armageddon and Mobilegeddon, and both offer a significant threat to revenues. Many commentators have also noted the recent porous nature of The Sun paywall-protected website - which seems to be allowing more and more content outside its paywall.
The optimal approach is really the gateway / metering system which allows publishers to run on a well moderated freemium model - giving potential subscribers a healthy preview of the experience without being overtly pushy or greedy.
To our mind the FT was the first site to popularise this sort of metered gateway access - where unregistered users could view a certain small number of articles each month - before registration or further fees kicked in. I’m pretty sure that initially on the FT, you did not have to register straight-away like you do now, but could view a few articles before the restrictions kicked in. Currently on the FT, you get no unadulterated preview access - all interested parties must at least register to gain access to the minimal 3 free articles per month. When we Affino rolled out the new FG Insight site, it was delivered on the original FT model - i.e. on proper freemium terms - giving all site visitors access to 5 ’free’ articles - before they need to register for further access. The free registration gives you access to most of the content, but there are 2 further fee-paying membership levels which give access to more specialist content, reports and services.
I still feel the web is blighted with an over-abundance of irritating banner ads, which interrupt and lower the customer experience - the membership fees should be sufficient to off-set banner advertising revenues - which should in fact really be replaced by co-authored Native Advertising, Area / Topic / Page Sponsorship and unobtrusive product placement.
The whole point about the free in freemium is to offer some form of trial and preview - or demo if you wish - of the larger experience. Which is why the paywall / metered gateway usually offers a glimpse of some of the higher level paid-for content too.
The other key service that customers are happy to pay for is summary news digests / industry and sector insights and briefings - the operative word being ’brief’. Time is an ever more precious commodity, and busy executives need quick and easy means for gauging current market trends and likely progress.
With the still vital social component of news gathering and distribution (media sharing etc.), Publishers must not be afraid to ’borrow’ relevant guerilla-style social media bloggers and vloggers. They need to latch onto where the interest lies, and which individuals are the key influencers and turn-keys in that sector. There are so many enterprising individuals currently online, it’s not hard to find someone who is already eminently suitable for your sector and your particular editorial tone of voice - and whose influence you can use to your own benefit.
Within all of this, the style of news delivery needs to change too - you don’t need to be tabloid-like sensationalist in your headline generation, but it helps a lot to take a position on the key issues, and to run some genuine opinion-led commentary on the biggest developing news stories. You will get a lot more mileage via social sharing / media if you take some sort of position, versus simply presenting a bland, matter-of-fact neutral piece.
If you are involved in any form of information publishing, then freemium should still be a great model for you. You must of course have regular high-value and unique content to drive such a commercial business. So much news is available elsewhere for free, that you have to put a smart spin on it to get potential members willing to subcsribe to your service/s ...