What happened:

Handelsblatt, a popular business newspaper company based in Dusseldorf, Germany has upped its revenue by launching a Paywall. The subscription-first model was implemented in spring last year and Paywall was launched.

Why it matters:

Launching Paywall on a blog raises concerns on the viability of the model and its effect on site traffic. Though it helps subscribers get rid of ads, convincing site readers to pay for exclusive content might be a hard task. However, Handelsblatt took a leap of faith and their decision to adopt subscription-first strategy paid off.

This story pinpoints the initial difficulties faced by the Handelsblatt team, the solutions proffered and how Paywall paid off.

Digging deeper:

People pay for relevant things, such as; shoes, clothes, cars, and real estate. However, the same ‘rule’ might not apply to exclusive content. There’s this popular belief that ‘information wants to be free’ and the public advocates this belief by clamoring for free information across all institutions, including news platforms.

Opposite to the popular belief, a good percentage of digital publishers think otherwise. According to an INMA post authored by Sandra Schendzielorz, Manager of Digital Subscriptions and Products; and Patrick Stolte, Director of Sales and Consumer Business, ‘Before the paywall, more than 75% of our Web site content was accessible for free, so the need for having a subscription was not very high. To build a valuable and long-lasting business model, we needed to change that. The users should understand that they need to have a subscription to read our valuable content.

The ‘free content’ days are over and Handelsblatt has placed a price on their blog content. Per year, subscribers are required to pay 149.99 Euros to keep accessing Handelsblatt blog. Like every decision, the paywall decision doesn’t come without its consequences.

The authors, Sandra and Patrick, were silent about the negative effects of launching a paywall on Handelsblatt, but stated the mechanisms that helped them increase their revenue and sustain their subscribers after a free 14-day trial.

The Handelsblatt marketing team understood that gaining more subscribers is not the primary goal; nurturing long-term user relationships crowns their efforts. So the marketing team divided their task into three, namely: activation; engagements; and conviction and value.

In 14-days, the consumers would be encouraged to register and download the app; engage with relevant content; and hopefully, continue enjoying their services by paying monthly fees.

After launching paywall, the Handleblatt team ‘succeeded to increase the clicks on the paywall by more than 108% over the year. At the end of 2018, we managed to increase the sales via paywall on our Web site by more than 25% (May-December 2018 compared to May-December 2017) without losing or reducing the Web site traffic…more than half of the subscribers gained over our Web site remain after the free trial, which means an uplift of 25%.

Bottom line:

Related:  Pay Models for Online News in the U.S. and Europe

To make the most out of your blog without bombarding your blog users with ads, you need to adopt the subscribe-first strategy. However, you ought to focus on long-term consumer relationships, if you want to sustain your fan base. 

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