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One-Minute Survey Result:  How hard is your website’s paywall?

Results as of July 16, 2014
Last month, we asked MDDC members to share their experiences with their website’s paywalls. All MDDC members are anchored by a printed publication; there are no online-only members of the association. Of those that responded, over 70% reported that readers have to pay to access some or all of the website’s content. Of the 70% of respondents who have some sort of paywall, 80% meter access to content and restrict access after a user has accessed a certain number of articles.
Of those who do NOT have a paywall, 50% report that because their publication is free, the website content is free as well. One respondent noted that although the site is currently free, a metering system is being implemented.

Increasing reader loyalty in FREE websites

Members use a variety of ways to increase loyalty of readers in free websites. All respondents use email news alerts. Other methods included using Twitter ads targeted to those who have left the site, teasing similar free content, and targeting Facebook ads to those users who have left the site.

What’s in front of the paywall?

Every respondent shared that there is SOME free content on the website (in front of the paywall). In general, respondents noted that over half of the website is locked down, with 40% of respondents sharing that 81-90% of content is locked down. Some respondents are putting blogs and breaking news in front of the paywall. Some allow users to share content on their own social media and those "shares" bypass the paywall, while some allow their own social media links to bypass the paywall. One respondent requires a user's contact info (name, email address) to see free content.
No respondents are locking down the entire site or putting the digital edition, features or investigative news in front of the paywall.

Getting users to convert to paid subscriptions

Getting users to convert from browsing the free content to paying for a subscription is an uphill climb. Most respondents said that when a user hits the paywall a special discount offer to subscribe at the moment is MOST effective for conversion. One respondent noted that providing information to visitors on how to subscribe once the metered access was used up for the month was the most effective for that publication and another noted that a product comparison page was most effective. When users are accessing free content, but are not at a paywall, respondents use a variety of methods (and some more than one method) to entice users to subscribe. These include emailing a subscription offer, using a pop-up subscription offer, emailing news alerts, teasing similar, locked-down content, showing text ads within the content, and showing a subscription web ad.
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