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digital audience engagement

4 reasons digital day passes are key to increased circulation revenue

08 October 2014 · by Peter Marsh

Though digital readership has increased 23% in the last couple of years, only 10% of readers are paying for online content. Day passes sold by media companies may meet audience needs while opening up an untapped source of revenue.

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Globally, newspaper digital circulation revenue is up 60% from 2012. Digital readership increased 23% over the same period. At US$1.7 billion, digital circulation revenue represents only a little more than 1% of total newspaper revenue, but the needle continues to move in the right direction.

Still, there’s a problem. While a growing number of readers are buying digital subscriptions, only about 10% of online users worldwide are actually paying for content.

It’s a commitment thing. Lots of people simply do not want to sign up for long-term digital subscriptions. Or, more commonly, readers find a story online, they want to read it, and then they want to move on to something else.

To meet this challenge – as well to find new ways of enticing even the most casual online readers – newspaper companies around the world are increasingly turning to day passes — one-day subscriptions that provide timed access to online content.

Sold in single-day and multi-day bundles, the day pass concept helps newspapers engage a new genre of readers who are not yet loyal to their brands.

Companies like the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman introduced a US$0.99 day pass less than a year ago, which has helped the media company build the largest digital audience of any local media group in its market.

In Germany, Axel Springer launched an innovative programme called BILDplus that uses ink jet technology to print a unique code on each copy of the newspaper. Readers can enter this code online to get free one-day access to premium BILD content.

According to Axel Springer, “BILDplus supports BILD’s circulation and combines the online and offline worlds.”

At a dollar, pound, or euro for 24-hour access, day passes are easy and inexpensive. They help media companies lower the entry barrier for people who want content now. No complex registration process. No need to answer any surveys or quiz questions.

According to a recent study by Bain and Company, even people who are willing to pay for online news say they would spend three times less for digital content than for the printed versions of the product.

For these readers, day passes are carrots instead of sticks. In exchange for a very small payment, readers are rewarded with a day’s worth of valuable content and quality journalism.

So, as newspapers around the world strive to refine and expand their digital revenue models, here are four reasons why day passes should be part of these multi-pronged strategies:

  1. Digital day passes help build brand loyalty one day at a time. At the recent iConnect Solutions newspaper user group conference in Minneapolis, it was reported that readers who sign up for 24-hour access are more likely to return another day, and even more likely to sign up for longer-term access (e.g. multi-day passes or short-term subscriptions) on subsequent visits.

  2. Day passes enable newspapers to capture information about readers that proves valuable in audience segmentation and targeting efforts. Even minimal registration data helps to remove the anonymity of casual visitors, which in turn allows the newspaper to serve up more contextually relevant news and advertising content.

    Relevant content leads to greater engagement and an increased likelihood that one-time readers will commit to becoming subscribers. More carrots, fewer sticks.

  3. People, young and old, are accustomed to paying a little bit of money online for a song, an app, or a movie. Day passes extend this paradigm to news site content.

    As long as the payment process follows the simplicity of a music or app store, readers will be encouraged to sign up for digital day passes with minimal effort and forethought.

  4. Day passes cater to the immediacy of mobile audiences. Mobile users, especially those who come to a newspaper’s site through search, want their content right now.

    A simple day pass coupled with a built-in mobile payment scheme allows a media company to make a valuable connection with mobile users that can lead to greater engagement and long-term loyalty.

In places like the United Kingdom, where 20% of all newspaper readers use mobile devices exclusively to access content, this is a growing audience segment to be captured, cultivated, and nurtured.

As global newspaper companies head into the final quarter of this year and look forward to 2015, the digital pay pass is one more arrow in the quiver to help keep circulation revenues on the rise, and to successfully convince and convert a new segment of online audiences into becoming loyal subscribers.

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