How A Local Newspaper’s Metered Paywall Doubled Its Subscribers In 18 Months

The Challenge: Valuable News Hidden Away

The Austin Monitor is an online news publisher dedicated to the local political and business happenings of Austin, Texas. Though their content was prolific and valuable, their original hard paywall severely limited the growth of their readership.

After all, it’s hard to court new readers when they can only see excerpts or carefully curated articles. People like to know the full value of things before they buy and they like to control their reading experience.

The Monitor needed a few things. First, they needed a way to attract new readers via search engines like Google and the various social networks.

Then, they needed to turn those readers into paid subscribers.

Finally, they needed to make the most of their amazing archive of content.

The Solution: Metered Paywalls To The Rescue

As with so many other web-based publishing problems, the ideal solution began with a metered paywall – ZEEN101’s own Leaky Paywall, in fact.

Metered or flexible paywalls are an effective way for online news sources to maintain their digital revenue in an era of declining print subscriptions. The New York Times, which pioneered the metered paywall, proved that by reaching over 1 million digital-only subscribers in 2015. The Wall Street Journal launched its own version shortly after and neither publication has cause to regret it.

With such a triumphant history, the Austin Monitor was willing to give it a try.

The Experience: Tantalizing Access, Reader-Controlled Browsing

For the Monitor’s prospective readers, it works like this.

They Google a piece of local information: what’s going with the Austin water board, for example.

Being the preeminent news source that it is, the Monitor has, of course, covered the topic. That article shows up high in the Google search results.

The reader clicks through and has access to the entire article that covers their point of interest. They can then browse around for related topics or interesting headlines.

The visitor can read up to five articles a month, completely free. They can share those articles across all the social media networks with their friends and followers. Those friends can follow the links back to the Monitor and start the five-article process for themselves.

When they click on number six, they are presented with an excerpt and a prompt that offers them a choice: purchase one-off access to that particular article or subscribe.

If they choose to subscribe, they are taken to page that offers them a few simple choices. (Please note this proven fact of humanity: people respond well to having options, as long as they aren’t needlessly complex.)

For the Monitor, subscription options include a 10 article per month subscription, an all-access pass to current articles, or a premium subscription that includes archive content.

(Any article over 60 days old is automatically archived and restricted to premium subscription holders.)

There are a few extra things that the Austin Monitor does with Leaky Paywall.

They can restrict access to individual articles. Highly-desirable or particularly valuable articles can be designated as “always premium”.

They also have a few other subscription levels: corporate subscriptions available to anyone with a company email address or bulk subscriptions for schools or libraries where anyone physically sitting in the institution has access.

And, when they’re ready, they can easily integrate apps, too. All in a day’s work for Leaky Paywall.

The Results: More Readers, More Subscribers

In just the first 18 months of life with Leaky Paywall, the Austin Monitor saw a 68% increase in general readership.

They saw a 61% increase in paid subscriptions.

In other words, their reach and revenue more than doubled with the addition of a metered paywall.

The Bonus: Emails, Emails, Emails

Email blasts have become an absolute necessity for digital marketing purposes and Leaky Paywall makes that possible for the Monitor as well.

Leaky Paywall plays nicely with others, including MailChimp, to create automated email blasts.

The Monitor site encourages sign-ups to join the email list for free alerts and updates to local news.

Every day, MailChimp scans for new articles and assembles an email with titles and excerpts. That email is sent to the list.

In addition to keeping people aware of what’s happening in their community, the emails are a daily reminder to subscribe.

After all, who wouldn’t want access to that gold mine of content?

Want to discover what Leaky Paywall can do to your reach and revenue? Let’s talk.

Learn how Leaky Paywall can help grow your subscription revenue