Overview of this campaign
The Winnipeg Free Press, like so many other newspapers, had been offering free content online for years. As the industry evolved, we had to find a way to generate revenue beyond traditional ad sales. It was time to put up a paywall. But what we launched in summer 2015 turned out to be so much more than that - the new winnipegfreepress.com is an innovative, paid-digital content initiative that has gained international attention. Our objective was to go beyond the subscriber model that other news organizations were using. If we were going to put up new barriers to access our material, it was important to keep costs low for our readers - not just financial costs, but cognitive costs, too. We wanted to help them find exactly what they wanted. And we made the purchasing decision for each article a simple one: we'd only charge 27 cents apiece. We believed this pay-per-article system, dubbed ‘Read Now, Pay Later’, was the best way answer the questions: What do our readers want? And how do we get them to pay for it? To make it easier and more transparent for our 'Read Now, Pay Later' consumers, we run a tally for each article purchased, displayed at the top of the site once they sign in. With each transaction, readers are given a clear option to refund their payment if they desire, and they are only asked to pay at the end of each month. Key to the success of ‘Read Now, Pay Later’ was our content recommendation engine and our splashy new design that gives more prominence to each article surfaced. On our old site, much of our best work was buried. Now we serve up more content than we ever have before. Giving readers what they want, when they want it, has gone a long way to encourage them to pay for our work. We've completely unbundled our news, and we've seen meaningful results.
Results for this campaign
The new winnipegfreepress.com now has more than 7,300 incremental paid accounts – divided almost evenly between the ‘All Access’ monthly subscription and ‘Read Now, Pay Later’ micro-payment methods. Including print and digital customers, we have approximately 35,000 users. We sell more than 1,000 articles per day to 'Read Now, Pay Later' customers, and saw nearly $500,000 in incremental revenue from this project in its first six months. Our site performance has also increased exponentially: Our average page views per user is up 87%. The average time spent on each piece of content has increased 20%. The average total user duration on our site is up 124%. To say this success was beyond our expectations is an understatement - we were launching this concept with an untested pricing model. We had no examples of similar initiatives in the industry to rely on. But the greater risk proved to be a greater reward, as we were able to serve up more content while addressing thinning resources at the same time. Our content recommendation system has helped us avoid the pratfalls of inadequate curation - it responds in real time to what readers are telling us, and surfaces the material they are looking for. Feedback on the new user experience has been very positive - and even when it wasn't, this model gave us the bandwidth to adjust to serve our readers' needs. Our daily morning news briefing, Head Start, is one way we’ve addressed our readers' desire for more curation and a sense of completion to their reading experience. Head Start has now been sponsored for a year by Tim Hortons. And we’ve expanded our regular, reliable digital offerings - a midday pop culture and city life focused digest, Ctrl+F, was launched in 2015 and proven very popular with our audience. We started with a risk, but the numbers tell us we're heading in the right direction. For us, 'pick and pay' is here to stay.