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Paywalls and data: How to make digital publishing pay

How to make money in publishing was the question being asked at Mash Media’s event for the news industry at London’s Excel.

Did it deliver on its title of Making Publishing Pay? Up to a point. There were no silver bullets but more than enough actionable ideas to cover the cost of admission.

Speakers from companies who seem to be making publishing pay included:

Below are some of my main take-homes from the event last week…

John Barnes on how to make paywalls work:

  • It is shocking how infrequently most visitors come to your website
  • Registration is a good solution for B2B because it makes the advertising proposition more compelling if you know who the readers are
  • Publishers who have a metered subs model focus on building a critical metric, their “stop rate”, the percentage of readers who are stopped by a subscription prompt or a meter limit… You should aim for a minimum of five to ten per cent of readers to reach the stop to be successful with a metered paywall.

Laura Jenner – product director at Immediate Media – on how to launch a new digital product:

  • Be very careful about setting a date for delivery
  • Coding is really complicated, don’t underestimate how long it takes to build digital products
  • Focus on the customer: who are they? What do they want?
  • An iterative approach pays dividends – don’t do it all at once… Experiment and roll out in stages
  • Out the outset focus on the “why”. Why are we doing this? What is the change in human behaviour we are trying to achieve that delivers value for our customers?
  • Don’t fall in love with your solution but take a holistic approach to discovery. Don’t make assumptions
  • Use the UBAD method to communicate with stakeholders:

1) Understanding. Make sure the team understand the problem.
2) Belief. Do they believe what you are saying is true? May need to return to 1) if they don’t.
3) Advocacy. Are they speaking up for the changes that need to happen?
4) Decisions. Are they making decisions that support the changes that need to happen?

  • Make sure you take staff on the journey with you. Don’t get on the bus and say you will meet them at the next stop.
  • Define your success metrics. What does success look like? Make sure it is measurable.

A useful slide here from  Sophie Dempsey of GMAC Media on some of the tools she uses: 


Dan Stevenson from Ampere Analysis on launching a successful data product:

  • Launched in Jan 2015 with £500k. Now turns over £5m with 90 per cent renewal rate and £50k average order value.
  • Favours Tableau, Microsoft and Infogram for data visualisation
  • PR incredibly useful for driving leads – B2B PR is more valuable than the FT in this regard
  • Don’t under-value your product. Aggressive pricing early on will pay dividends down the line
  • Launching multiple services enables you to up-sell further down the line.

Picture: Pixabay

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