Our mission is to spread and activate economic expertise. We are convinced that our interviews, analysis, graphics, and articles are exclusive and useful. Good journalism is worth paying for.

That is why Handelsblatt shifted to a subscription-first strategy in spring 2018 and launched a new paywall. On the Web site, just a handful of articles are accessible without a subscription, and 100% of the content in our app is paid.

Before the paywall, more than 75% of our Web site content was accessible for free, so the need for having a subscription was not very high. To build a valuable and long-lasting business model, we needed to change that. The users should understand that they need to have a subscription to read our valuable content.

Even though we knew it would be a big change for our readers, we decided to put almost all content behind a paywall and change our corporate strategy, processes, and mindset.

We launched our new paywall in May 2018. By this time, we also had started to optimise the paywall and offer pages with several A/B tests to further improve the customer experience and conversion.

For example, we succeeded to increase the clicks on the paywall by more than 108% over the year. At the end of 2018, we managed to increase the sales via paywall on our Web site by more than 25% (May-December 2018 compared to May-December 2017) without losing or reducing the Web site traffic.

Moreover, we implemented new resources for mobile marketing. To win new subscribers through our app, we launched mobile marketing as a completely new discipline in sales. Over the year, we increased the number of new paid subscribers in the app by 686% compared to our previous app.

We also managed to increase the number of new subscribers over all other marketing and sales channels, even those which take place offline, like telemarketing. This was a huge success for us and proved we were on the right track.

The number of subscriptions increased substantially during the year after launching the new Handelsblatt paywall.
The number of subscriptions increased substantially during the year after launching the new Handelsblatt paywall.

Of course, the primary goal of implementing our new strategy was to gain more digital subscribers. We set ourselves the goal not only to acquire new customers but to create long-term customer relationships.

We created individual customer journeys by e-mail for each customer group to increase their engagement on our products. We implemented the Salesforce Marketing Cloud in 2018 and set up individual customer journeys, which focus on three important aspects:

  1. Activation: After registration, new users should be motivated to download the app as one of our most important products within the subscription portfolio and to log in to our Web site to read at least one article.
  2. Engagement: Subscribers should create a habit with our products and content; therefore, we engage them regularly.
  3. Conviction and value: Subscribers should be familiar with our efforts, editorial processes, and awards to understand the value of a subscription, especially before the trial period is ending.
Handelsblatt developed an individual customer journey through e-mail that has helped to boost engagement and keep subscribers.
Handelsblatt developed an individual customer journey through e-mail that has helped to boost engagement and keep subscribers.

Now, more than half of the subscribers gained over our Web site remain after the free trial, which means an uplift of 25%. In the app, now 58% of the subscribers stay after the free trial. We are on a promising road to a long-lasting and stable business model in digital because were willing to make a change, not only the paywall, but perhaps even more important, to the corporate culture.