Times Union Dynamic Meter and Paywall
2018 Finalist

Times Union Dynamic Meter and Paywall

Hearst Newspapers: Times Union

New York, United States

Category Best New Paid Content Or Subscription Initiative

Overview of this campaign

Develop a dynamic meter and paywall experience that compliments our current digital advertising revenue model while driving deeper engagement with our content, and increases paid subscriptions.  

Our first objective is to clearly explain to our visitors that reading our content requires a paid subscription.

Our second objective is to develop a paywall experience that encourages engagement and habituation with our content that drives more readers to the paywall.  Our hypothesis is that newsletters drive readers back to our site to engage more with content.  We created specific experiences for three propensity segments:

  • The highest propensity segment to subscribe sees a prominent newsletter sign up message on the paywall after 5 free articles that rewards these visitors with 3 additional free articles for signing up.
  • The medium propensity segment to subscribe sees the prominent newsletter sign up message after 3 free articles.  These visitors are also rewarded with 3 additional free articles in the month.  
  • The low or no propensity to subscribe segment encourages visitors to read articles to develop a relationship with our brand and/or re-engage.  These visitors are shown an inline newsletters sign up to continue free access for the month.  The marketing unit can be closed and is on the first 3 articles read.
  • Beginning of every month the system recalibrates and our audiences are moved into updated segments that allows for the right experience to be served.   

Our third objective is to minimize impact on advertising revenue while maximizing subscription revenue.

Our final objective is to utilize one technology platform so we can manage all experiences with a small development team that supports our other local markets, newsletters, seasonal consumer marketing and all experience optimizations.

Results for this campaign

The results of the Times Union Dynamic Meter and Paywall have been outstanding:  

  • The highest propensity segment to subscribe with newsletter sign up and subscribe messaging generates essentially 50% more subscription starts than our control.

  • The medium propensity segment to subscribe is generating 10x more newsletter sign ups than we see on any other channel or marketing message. In addition, we’re seeing visitors who signed up for the newsletter are 4X more likely to move into the high propensity segment in the following month compared to new visitors who didn’t sign up.  

  • The inactive propensity segment is continuously being refreshed with new anonymous visitors to our site.  This audience segment is consistently feeding the medium and high engaged segments each month and enables the results we’re seeing in the medium and high segments to continue.  

  • The significant lift in paid subscription revenue from the dynamic meter experiences more than offsets any potential losses we initially saw in digital advertising revenue.

  • We’ve successfully built and managed the segments and experiences of the Times Union Dynamic Meter and Paywall using a CDP (Customer Data Platform).  The cross functional team utilizes an agile marketing and development process and works in 2 weeks sprints.  By utilizing a single platform and an agile process we’ve been able to launch these experiences quickly, test and iterate with a small dedicated team.


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