The Cliffhanger Effect: How Blick's Paywall Strategy Drives Digital Subscription Growth
2024 Finalist

The Cliffhanger Effect: How Blick's Paywall Strategy Drives Digital Subscription Growth


Zürich, Switzerland

Category Digital Subscriptions

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

When the Blick Group launched its digital subscription model in June 2023, it introduced an innovative approach: Instead of merely communicating subscription benefits at the paywall, each article's paywall featured a cliffhanger.

What is a cliffhanger paywall?

A cliffhanger, concisely described in 3-4 bullet points, subtly outlines the article's essence directly on the paywall.
Currently, the cliffhanger is crafted by the journalist who writes the article. This is because creating an effective cliffhanger is a fine art. It requires skillfully teasing the article to pique interest without revealing too much, as oversharing can adversely affect the conversion rate. Initial experiments with using artificial intelligence to generate cliffhangers have shown that this is not a viable option at present. However, our long-term goal is to automate the creation of cliffhangers.

Previous tests with the cliffhanger at the registration barrier had already indicated the potential effectiveness of this paywall style. To determine if this held true for the paywall as well, we conducted an extensive A/B/C test over two months shortly after the launch.

What were the goals?

Our goal was to enhance conversions by more effectively engaging user interest. However, there were concerns that users might subscribe solely for individual articles, potentially leading to a lower retention rate among those who subscribed through the cliffhanger paywall. Consequently, we also focused closely on the churn rate.

What was tested?

We compared the cliffhanger paywall against a marketing-focused paywall (including a description of subscription benefits) and a basic paywall without additional subscription information.

Results for this campaign

Campaign Results: Evaluating the Impact of Blick's Cliffhanger Paywall

In the web-browser environment (smartphone and desktop), the cliffhanger paywall proved significantly effective. It achieved a 7% higher conversion rate compared to the simple paywall and a substantial 21% increase over the marketing paywall including overall subscription benefits.

Contrary to our concerns, there was no increase in users subscribing for single articles and then cancelling. The paywall design, therefore, had no impact on the retention rate, making the effects of the cliffhanger paywall uniformly positive. This has led us to continue relying on this approach.

Among app users, there was no noticeable difference between the various paywall models. This suggests that in the app environment, where users are generally more loyal and familiar with the product, the paywall design and wording have less influence on their subscription decisions.

Overall, these findings demonstrate the successful implementation and impact of the cliffhanger paywall in web environments, confirming its value in boosting conversion rates and revenue. The contrast between web and app user responses highlights the importance of adapting strategies to suit different user environments and their unique behaviors and preferences.


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