With the paywall debate having no end in sight, it is sometimes nice to step back and examine the lay of the land, particularly for regional and small publishers.
Having been accused by his most prolific critic as suggesting solutions that only work for large-scale, national publishers, and with a close friend finding himself the Managing Editor of a local newspaper in Montana, Steve Outing (pictured), of EditorandPublisher.com has done just that.
Whilst his tips come from US case studies there is still plenty there for panicking publishers to step away from the paywall, at least for a little longer.
He argues that a recent American Press Institute study demonstrates that paywalls only work in certain markets. One newspaper, he states, could maintain a paywall because it was the only paper in town. Another, though, couldn’t sustain the model due to competition from a local free website.
So what is the alternative? One suggestion, with his editor-friend in mind, is a five-point plan of generating revenue from the digital output whilst protecting the print product, particularly of use to those publishers who operate within tourist towns:
1. Offer paid subscriptions to the newspaper that also include free access to a digital-replica edition.
2. Offer paid digital-replica edition subscriptions that mimic the paper in electronic form, for those second-home owners in the area and others who want to keep up with...news and developments and prefer not to receive the print edition by mail when the news is several days old.
3. Continue to keep all your Web site content -- including locally produced news -- free to all. And yes, that includes print subscribers who might be tempted to save money, cancel the print edition, and rely on the free Web site.
4. Have your Web manager focus on better ad targeting, in order to identify out-of-area users as potential tourists interested in hotels, camping, excursions, etc. and show them relevant ads.
5. Most importantly, devise other reasons for paying print and/or digital subscribers to keep paying -- primarily by value-added online, digital, mobile and even physical extras not available to non-paying users of the Web site.
This is expanded for those who may not have such a tourist trade to include advice on finding other incentives for people to subscribe to your newspaper, such as a free breaking-news mobile service that would otherwise be charged for.
Outing will have to wait if his advice satisfies his critic but it is certainly worth a look by anyone who has a Google-sized headache from the paid-content debate.
Labels: Business Models, paywalls, Traffic