This week Business Insider will begin testing a metered paywall with a small, random group of readers, reports Ad Age. Axel-Springer-owned Business Insider will start the metered paywall at 10 articles, but plans to experiment at other levels during a three-month testing period.
During the experiment, each selected reader will receive a subscription message three times: at the beginning of the test, halfway through their 10-article limit, and when they have one story left in their allotment. The clock starts ticking with the first article and resets every 30 days. According to Ad Age, these readers will be offered a subscription for $1 for the first month, and $9.95 per month thereafter.
By comparison, the New York Times has a metered paywall which gives readers 10 free articles per month. Its current subscription offer is a 50 percent discount for the first year. For the Basic subscription, this equates to about $8.15 per month.
Source: New York Times
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Source: New York Times
The Washington Post makes an offer similar to Business Insider. The Washington Post is $0.99 for the first four weeks and $9.99 every four weeks thereafter, or $99 per year if paid annually, for its National Digital Edition. It offers its National Digital Edition + D.C. Edition for $0.99 for the first four weeks and $14.99 every four weeks thereafter, or $149 a year if paid annually. However, if you stay on the subscription page long enough without subscribing, the Washington Post offers an even better deal.
Simultaneously, Business Insider is fighting back against ad blockers. It is asking readers who use ad blockers like Adblock Plus and Optimal to whitelist Business Insider or pay for a subscription. Readers who subscribe will be given a slightly different user experience in terms of ads. They will see branded content, but will not see display ads like banner ads or tower ads.
Business Insider is just the latest in a line of publishers trying to figure out how to fight ad blocking. As we explained in our “State of Ad Blocking 2016: What Publishers Need to Know” report, we described what some publishers are doing to address the growing problem:
- City A.M. implemented FreeWall by Rezonence to utilize another option for advertising.
- G.Q. magazine asked users to disable ad blockers or make micropayments for access.
- Wired magazine asked readers to whitelist them or subscribe to an ad-free version for $3.99 a month.
In the Ad Age article, Business Insider co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget said the impact on revenue and readership from these two initiatives – metered paywall and ad blocking – would likely be “modest.” If they generate additional revenue, Blodget said the revenue “should continue to allow us to increase the editorial budget, which would be great.”
Interestingly, in August, Business Insider published an article by Margaret Boland on this very topic: “Paywalls have worked for some traditional publishers, but may not work for digital natives.” The article links to a report for sale by BI Intelligence through a single-report purchase at $495.00 or an all-access membership for less than $210 a month.
Business Insider is not alone in trying to figure out how to maximize revenue from a digital news product or how to best fight the growing battle against ad blockers. As Business Insider points out in its report, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for publishers. Each organization needs to examine its financials, readership and circulation goals, target audience(s) and a host of other factors to make the best decision.
Though relatively young – the site launched in 2009 – Business Insider is using data and testing to determine its best course of action. It is taking a finite period of time to experiment with different metered paywall options and groups of readers to see what works and what doesn’t. The news outlet will then make informed business decisions based on that data or continue testing if they haven’t seen the desired results. Other publishers can learn from Business Insider’s example.
For more on the topic of ROI and paywalls, see our article “Understanding the ROI of Paywalls, Subscriptions and Ad-Supported News” by Arvic Tchivzhel, Mather Economics, for Subscription Insider, published earlier today.