Bottom-Line Marketing Blog

Bottom-line Marketing

Marketing the other side of the paywall

02 July 2013 · By Lon Haenel

Today’s online news consumers prefer a smorgasboard to a single dish. So newspapers have to ask themselves: Have we equipped our brand to mesh seamlessly with other social and search brands?

Paywalls are everywhere these days.

Newspapers in the United States might have agreed that erecting a pay system that authenticates paid users must be a good idea. We see all flavours, shapes, and sizes.

There are metered walls, freemium sites, time-allotted schemes, and the not-so-impressive hard paywall. Publishers of all sizes must agree. Players from the largest newspaper groups down to small-market America have gotten into the game.

In May, Nieman Journalism Lab reported that 85% of the Dallas Morning News print-only subscribers want access to digital on top of their daily newspaper.

An interesting fact is that many of the successful paywall launches have one thing in common: They provide access to their digital content to existing subscribers.

Hard-core news customers expect this. They are willing to pay extra for it, too. Some models include a generous rate increase.

But in Dallas, newspaper executives are now scrambling to build additional audience. Especially among digital-only readers. In their estimation, they made it too difficult to subscribe to an online-only product.

I wonder if the word “subscribe” is to blame. Don’t get me wrong. I love subscribers and I love selling subscriptions. After all, I am a circulator.

But to get the view from the street, especially in the hard-core digital consumer segment, we must give pause to the words we use. Especially when we utter the term “subscription.”

The Internet is all about choice and independence. It doesn’t take long to get from one place to the next online. That device you’re holding in your hand or the mouse you’re using to scroll down this page is a magic carpet of the digital universe.

Market segments that have high digital IQ might perceive a digital-only subscription as something of very low value. In their mind, value is derived from a sum of experiences.

Multiple brands play into this. They have relationships with other brands, in addition to yours. They rely on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Do they enjoy reading other media in e-book format? What about video? I bet they frequent YouTube. Texting and e-mail communication is a staple of their lives.

They not only use these but must have professional networks like LinkedIn to do their job. There are so many available apps, it makes my head spin.

The question that keeps me up at night is this: How have we equipped our brand to mesh seamlessly with other social and search brands?

The trick is to appear as relevant as their most valuable digital brands. Difficult? Maybe. But let’s not forget that the local daily newspaper owns enormous brand equity. It’s our job to harness that brand power.

We must tell the story, over and over again, of why local matters in our communities. Convey the power of objective journalism- real journalism, not blogs.

Be sure you spell out the granddaddy of them all: the institution of a free press. I’ll bet those 20-something independence junkies would relate to this one.

So while the race is on to A/B test the perfect meter number, or to focus-group your way to a superior 24-hour pass, or to test-market the buy-an-article-as-you-go strategy, we would be wise to put our dear digital phenoms in plain view.

The bottom line is high digital types perceive value from choice and independence. Give them what they want, explain it very clearly, and sell it at a fair price. Then watch your audience grow.

That’s something we should all subscribe to.

print article send to friend

blog comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

The “Bottom-Line Marketing” blog aims to bring together the principles behind marketing with the real-world experiences of newspapers transitioning to newsmedia companies. Our bloggers are some of the leading marketers at the world’s leading newsmedia companies today, most with experiences with packaged goods and brands such as McDonald's and Disney. They will aim to show how marketing – often under-utilised in the news industry – improves the bottom line (even a baby's bottom).

Meet the bloggers

Bob Provost
Distinguished Executive-In Residence
Rutgers Business School
Newark, USA
send message

Scott Stines
Cedar Rapids, USA
send message

Geoff Tan
Senior Vice President & Head of Strategic Marketing
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
News Centre, Singapore
send message


RSS feed

Blog archives

May 2016 ( 2 )
April 2016 ( 2 )
March 2016 ( 2 )
February 2016 ( 3 )
January 2016 ( 2 )
December 2015 ( 2 )
November 2015 ( 1 )
October 2015 ( 2 )
September 2015 ( 2 )
August 2015 ( 2 )
July 2015 ( 2 )
June 2015 ( 2 )
May 2015 ( 2 )
April 2015 ( 3 )
March 2015 ( 4 )
February 2015 ( 4 )
January 2015 ( 4 )
December 2014 ( 4 )
November 2014 ( 3 )
October 2014 ( 6 )

Join INMA Today
Upcoming Events
INMA Ideas Day on Audience Development
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
17 June 2016
INMA International News Media Conference
São Paulo, Brazil
23-24 August 2016
INMA South Asia News Media Conference
New Delhi, India
30-31 August 2016
INMA European News Media Conference
14-17 September 2016
INMA Latin American News Media Conference
Panama City, Panama
22-23 September 2016
INMA Business Strategies 2020 Conference
Chicago, United States
03-04 October 2016
INMA Silicon Valley Study Tour
San Francisco, United States
17-21 October 2016

More Events

Member Profiles

  • Jim Moroney
    United States

  • Thiyagarajan Kumar

  • Sarp Uzkan
    United States

  • Diego Andres Carvajal Galeano

  • Mary Fox
    United States

  • Geir Terje Ruud

©2016 INMA | Home | About | Contact | RSS | Privacy