Analysis

If Paid Content is the New Hope, How Do We Convert Free Readers to Paying Ones?

Peter Houston looks at what will convert an audience from free to paid in his latest article for Publishing Executive

So we’re agreed? Reader revenue is the way to go. We’re over traffic-at-scale and ad-only funding models. Subscriptions probably won’t pay all your bills, but a healthy mix of subs and ad sales is what we’re all about these days.

OK? Great! Now that we’ve settled the paid content argument, how are we actually going to get people to pay?

Recognizing the strategic advantage of re-establishing a reader revenue stream and having a reader revenue stream are two very different things. One calls for a little common sense, the other is going to take some effort.

Speaking about an American Press Institute study into why people pay for news, API deputy executive director Jeff Sonderman sums up the challenges involved in developing a successful paid-content business. “If newsrooms want to build a business model around digital subscriptions, they have to think about the quality of the work they’re investing in and be sophisticated in how they market, target and keep those subscribers.”

At the heart of the task is the need to convert casual readers to subscribers and, like almost everything else in digital media, that’s a little more complicated than it used to be.

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