Subscription First: The New Handelsblatt Paywall
2019 Finalist

Subscription First: The New Handelsblatt Paywall


Düsseldorf, Germany

Category Best New Paid Content Or Subscription Initiative

Overview of this campaign

Of course, the major goal was to gain more digital subscribers. However, we didn’t just want to acquire them, but to keep & engage them.


How to win more new digital subscribers:

Before implementing our “subscription first”- strategy in 2018, more than 75% of our website’s content was accessible for free , which means that a random website visitor could read a lot of our content without subscribing. The need for having a subscription was not very high. Therefore, we wanted 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 wanted to put almost all of our contents behind a paywall. We only left a few articles on the website (per user)  for free, so that new users could still convince themselves of our content’s quality and the value and advantages of a subscription. To support our new strategy, not only the content on our website, but all the content within our app was put behind a paywall. To push the app downloads and In-App-Conversions, we implemented new resources for mobile marketing and launched several high reach and download campaigns on multiple channels.


Because we knew that not every reader uses all our platforms such as website, App, ePaper, archive or print, we created different subscription offers. One goal was to optimize the product portfolio and the takerate throughout the year and thereby increase the conversion rate.


Moreover, we hoped to drive conversions on all of our marketing & sales channels by implementing the subscription first strategy on the website and in our app because of the higher need for a subscription.


How to keep them:

We set ourselves the goal to create long-term customer relationships and an increasing survivor score. For this reason, we wanted to create individual customer journeys through e-mail for each customer group to increase their engagement with us and our products.

Results for this campaign

Acquisition (attachment 1):


By implementing the new paywall in May 2018, we managed to increase the sales via paywall  by more than 25% (may-december 2018 compared to may-december 2017) without losing or reducing the website´s traffic. Shortly after the implementation we started to optimize both paywall and offerpage by several a/b testings. We succeeded to increase the clicks on the paywall by more than 108%. Next, we tested the layout of the offerpage with an uplift of + 37% on desktop (+58% on mobile).


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.


As intended, we also succeeded in acquiring more customers in all our marketing & sales channels. We managed to increase subscriptions sales by more than 48% (may-december 2018 compared to may-december 2017).


 Finally we acquired more than  18.000 new paying digital subscribers across all channels (uplift +63%) in 2018, 16.000 of them since May (+44%) (video 2).


Engagement & Retention:


We managed to implement the Salesforce Marketing Cloud in 2018 and to set up individual customer journeys (attachment 2/ video 1) which focus on three important aspects: 1. Activation: new users are motivated to download the app as one of our most important products within the subscription portfolio and to login to our website to read at least one article after registration. 2. Engagement: subscriber should create a habit with our products and contents, therefore we engage them  regularly . 3. Conviction & Value: subscribers should know the effort, the editorial processes and awards to understand the value of subscription, especially before the trial period is ending. (video 1)


Now, more than half of the subscribers gained over our website remain after the free trial which means an uplift of 25 % (attachment 3). In the app now 58% of the subscribers stay after the free trial.  


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