In July of this year, six months after the launch of Gazeta Wyborcza’s metered paywall, we decided to transform it into an intelligent paywall. We realised that without an analysis of the online performance of an anonymous user, our metered paywall worked like a hard paywall in a freemium model. 

The difference between a regular freemium solution and a metered one is not as sophisticated as expected. In a freemium model, a publisher decides which article is premium, paid, and closed. A metered paywall is like a lottery. 

In April, the business development team in Gazeta Wyborcza undertook the effort to evaluate our paywall for the first time. In May, we already knew what changes needed to be implemented for the improvements to be introduced in July. 

Here are three key conclusions and changes made on the path to purchase:

1. “You have read 5 of 10 free articles this month.” This means that most users of metered paywall see free articles, and sometimes they encounter information that free access is limited. Additionally, not all the content presented to the users is counted because publishers have their own rules.

Video and photo galleries are not included in the limit. Similarly, some users coming from search engines and social Web sites might see a free article without any indication that access to the content may be limited. Therefore we think that invitation to the subscribers’ community depends on unclear content consumption rules and is based on negative messages and emotions. 

That’s why in July, we’ve removed all counter warnings used so far and marked all articles read within the limit with a green opened padlock. An invitation to the subscriber’s community pops up at the end of the article and is supported by positive visualisation (with green tones, of course). 

We want our readers to know that every article is accessible for subscribers and that they are our guests. It is clear and understandable. We’ve also marked articles accessed by means of search engines and social networks with a custom call-to-action (CTA) template. 

All closed articles are marked with an orange, closed padlock. Only active subscribers read articles without any padlocks.

2. “Get unlimited access, trial for only $US.32 per month.” As we all know, it’s the most popular CTA popped up at the closed article in metered Web services. But who needs unlimited access? When? For what?

We can predict the answer by analysing the behaviour of an anonymous user. We are able to see the difference between the user who used up his monthly limit within a few days and the user who reached the limit in 20 days. We can also identify the user who reached the limit and left the website as well as the user who visited digital offer landing page three times in a particular month. 

It’s understandable that the reader accessing the content free form search engine might never respond to the “get unlimited access” CTA, but maybe privileges (such as discounts in cinemas, e-books store) will work (by the way, he will never see any “get unlimited access” CTA unless served on the article opened with a search/social link). 

There are many more reasons to get paid access: journalistic opinions, apps, the opportunity to comment on an article. 

In May and June, we implemented tools based on the paywall gateway and Google Tag Manager. Now we can generate the proper CTA based on the behaviour of an anonymous user. Our business team prepared tens of scenarios that were coded and stored in the system. If the user “fits” in one of them, the default CTA will be replaced with a “tailor-made.” All will be A/B tested multiple times. 

3. “Recommended package.” It is up to the user to decide which package is the most suitable for him/her. The best solution for us is to recommend the best subscription period.

The cost of full monthly access is cheaper when the user decides to buy a quarterly or annual subscription. We knew that but it was not so obvious to the readers. 

Preparing a new offer and a landing page in July, we highlighted the price of a monthly subscription and the possible cost savings in all subscription plans. We expect to lower the monthly churn rate by changing the subscription structure focusing more on medium and long term subscriptions. 

We named our paywall “intelligent.” We will “teach” it to understand better the behaviour of users and to communicate with them. Our business development team will continuously work on its new “skills.”