Once upon a time, when journalism was stepping into the digital world, the main concern on everyone\u2019s mind was about revenue:\u00a0would readers pay for online news? Was the classic advertising model enough? How would newspapers and magazines survive in this new scenario?\r\nThe\u00a0paywall\u00a0method entered the scene as a response to the\u00a0decline in the advertising\u00a0and has been around enough for us to get rid of some myths. The fear of implementing a barrier that could slow visitors down in their clicking journey is still present in some publishers\u2019 minds, but the context is not the same as when this concern was first raised.\r\n\r\nToday, editorial brands have a more direct relationship with their reader, so the interest has swift into how to find a paywall strategy that works, rather than wondering if it should exist at all.\r\nThe perspective of a new generation\r\nFor premium news organizations, it\u2019s all about adapting. And gated content is under the magnifying glass\u2014 there is no place for loopholes or leaks.\r\nWhile a first generation was focused on proving if consumers would pay for digital articles, today there is a second generation of publishers that optimize and build on that model. After experimenting for quite a while, they understand how the game is played on a deeper level; they have learned how\u00a0loyalty works and how to create value for subscribers.\r\nThe following examples embrace that vision and can help us understand how some important players have designed their strategies. Let\u2019s take a close look at how they did it.\r\n\r\nThe Boston Globe\r\n\r\nSource: Domenico Bettinelli\r\nImplement, test, analyze, adjust and repeat. This is a formula that is not exclusive for publishers, but for any digital company that wants to stay relevant (and profitable!) in an always changing game board.\r\nThe Boston Globe has been polishing its gated strategy for years. At the end of April 2017, they cut back from five to two on the number of free articles available for visitors every 45 days.\r\nSix years earlier, they had a hard paywall that targeted their most regular web readers and offered a subscription for their print edition some exclusive extras and kept the free, ad-supported Boston.com for a more casual audience.\r\nHowever, just three years later they introduced a leakier metered model that allowed a determined amount of articles for free before asking for a membership, something that had been working for The New York Times.\r\n\r\nThe Globe has monitored and improved their model constantly, opening and closing exceptions. A recent update was introduced when they stopped counting Google AMP links towards the meter.\r\nWired\r\n\r\nSource: Mike Mozart\r\nGated content can fit into a wider strategy that includes other actions. For Wired, this meant a membership-oriented paid product with features like a more robust, curated commenting system that could help attract more subscribers.\r\nUnder their current paywall, visitors can read four articles a month, plus a snippet of a fifth one, before being asked to subscribe. But Wired thinks they can convince them that a subscription is worth paying for with additions like featuring essays from thought leaders in the technology world, like MIT Media Lab head Joi Ito and writer Virginia Heffernan.\r\nThe magazine plans to produce other formats of exclusive content, like guides with compilations of essays about specific topics such as security, artificial intelligence, and cryptocurrency\u2014 very relevant issues for their audience.\r\nThe Atlantic\r\n\r\n\r\nSource: \u00a0Keith Allison\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0\r\nIn an industry constantly evolving it is no wonder that an ineffective solution in the past gets different results under a new sun, with the help of some new ideas to provide value to readers.\r\n\r\nAlmost 10 years ago, The Atlantic had decided to discontinue its paywall to allow their digital audience to grow. However, last January the magazine from Boston launched a metered model, where readers can get access up to 10 articles for free in a given month.\r\nThis is part of a diversification strategy for their revenue, where subscribers can choose between three pricing tiers once the paywall kicks. The first one allows full access to the site and app; the second one offers full web access and a subscription to the print magazine and, finally, a third option gives readers both print and digital access, in addition to a Masthead membership, a group with a digital subscription to the Atlantic, a daily newsletter and special features like access to the magazine\u2019s journalists.\r\n\r\nThe Wall Street Journal\r\n\r\nSource: Mike Lee\r\nDifferent levels of access can also be tailored for specific user profiles, a plan used by the Wall Street Journal.\r\nUnder this segmentation, non-subscribed visitors get a score based on more than 60 signals, such as if it\u2019s their first there, what device they use,\u00a0what\u00a0links they click or their location. Then, a machine learning system takes that information and decides how many and what kind of stories they can read for free, and whether they will respond to hitting paywall by paying for access or by just leaving.\r\nThey use this score to classify non-subscribed users into hot, warm or cold, so that those with scores that indicate a high likelihood of subscribing will hit a hard paywall. This allows to personalize the experience for each segment, and let those with a lower score browse stories for free in one session, and then hit the paywall. They can even be offered guest passes to the site, in various time increments, if they register an email address when they have a score that tells they could subscribe if they engage with more content.\r\nWhile the cost of a subscription doesn\u2019t vary based on a reader\u2019s score, the experience that they get is tailored for their specific profile.\r\nThe Telegraph\r\nA gated content plan, while having a direct impact on revenue, can help with a deeper analysis of the audience, too.\r\nThe Telegraph was one of the first adopters of paywall among British general interest newspapers but decided to switch for a premium model and leave pieces like opinion columns and exclusive interviews behind a hard paywall.\r\nThe change started with roughly 15% gated content, based on information provided by analytics on what types of stories are more likely to encourage readers to subscribe. Their previous paying audience from the metered model was turned into premium subscribers.\r\nThe\u00a0metered scheme\u00a0didn\u2019t work for The Telegraph\u2019s goals since it did not differentiate between visitors who were reading a story as a subscriber and those who were reading it for free. Other technical issues influenced the decision, such as the failure to run on mobile web or through third-party platforms like social media.\r\n\r\nA\u00a0Gated Content Strategy Outline\r\n\r\nThe models from these publishers are interesting examples of the different approaches you can take. Let\u2019s summarize the lessons learned so that you can create a strategy that fits your own goals:\r\n\r\n\r\n \tNo place for rigid plans\r\nHard paywalls are in the past. The\u00a0metered models most commonly used give the\u00a0flexibility to experiment on\u00a0the level of access and how often to reset the paywall. In addition, is it key to diversify revenue and think about what other features can join this solution.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tKeep your decisions based on data\r\nThe level of flexibility will be determined after a deep analysis of user behavior. Technology allows publishers to rely on\u00a0audience data and predictive analytics\u00a0to identify when to raise or lower the paywall so that the strategy can be defined in ways that work for readers, publishers, and even advertisers.\r\n\r\nAs publishers get smarter about reader\u2019s behavior, their models become more efficient. Those who learn from user behavior, like cookie deletion to avoid paywalls, are able to choose the right scheme.\r\n\r\n \tFocus on providing value\r\nData will show you that not all who land on your website\u00a0will become frequent readers, but that doesn\u2019t mean that you can\u2019t establish a relationship with them. Think about how you can keep the conversation going with actions like an invitation to follow you on social media or a subscription to your newsletter.\r\n\r\nThis would not be possible with a hard paywall that dismisses users right away. The flexibility of a metered method will allow to personalize how to provide value for different types of readers and react to the different behaviors that they display, so that segmented groups get a satisfactory experience on your portal. \u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n \tThink about a business plan\r\nThe answer is not on just putting up a paywall for specific editorial products, but about designing a strategy that suits a business model of a digital publisher.\r\n\r\nKeeping this type of mindset will help you avoid staying in a rigid framework and stay on a successful subscription business that gives value to your readers. A mentality that allows experimenting with different approaches, bifurcate strategies and comes up with something that creates and promotes a market is a must.\r\nBe part of a smarter generation of publishers\r\nThose who go for valuable solutions based on relevant data are the ones with a strategy with fewer holes.\u00a0The belief that millennials hate paying for things has been replaced with the understanding that users are willing to spend money on quality and a personalized experience. Publishers have learned that a successful model even allows them to get back to longer pieces that give value to their readers.\r\nIt\u2019s a good time to embrace the challenge and design a strategy that works for everyone: your business and your audience.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThanks to Veronica Magan for her input and inspiration for this piece.