How many articles should you give away for free on your publication’s website?

Let’s answer the question: What should I set my paywall meter to? In other words, how many free articles should I give away before prompting a visitor to pay for a subscription? This is a question we get all the time from both news and magazine publishers.

In this video you will learn:

  1. The problem with being too generous with your content
  2. How a free registration fits into your decision
  3. How many free articles to give away before asking a visitor to pay for a subscription

Or… read the article below:

Most publishers that we work with are too generous with their free article meter, especially if they are new to paid subscriptions The temptation is to give away more free articles than you need to. That’s a problem because you won’t scale up your paid subscriptions as fast as you would like. It usually takes a few months to organically see that you’re not converting enough subscribers.

When you set this up properly, you’ll end up with a free registration that lets you build your email list more quickly, which will create more traffic for you as your newsletter sends people back to your articles.

So what’s the solution here? What should you set your free article meter to?

Let’s take a look at our old friend, the New York times: 11 years ago, when they started, they had a very generous free article meter. You could go to their website and read 20 articles before they asked you to subscribe.

It worked, they started gaining paid digital subscribers. Sometime later, they went to 10 free articles per month. And the meter worked better, converting more paid subscribers. They went to five free articles and now they’re generally at one free article. They will let you register for free to gain access to a few more free articles.

You, the publisher, should create the same approach. Whether you are a B2C, B2B, news, or magazine publisher, you must set up a free registration.

Stop your readers early (let’s say at one free article), let them offer an email address and register on your site in trade for offering them a few more free articles. When I say a “few more free articles”, I mean, exactly that and your promotional language should reflect that.

When a visitor is logged in on your website don’t tell them exactly how many articles they have left. tell them they have just a few article left. This lets you test different meter settings.

Now here’s another example. This is smallboatsmonthly.com, a magazine that has a very restrictive metering set up. They’ve been doing this for a few years and they have only one free article set on their free article meter.

Once you go on to your second article you get asked to register for free. What do they offer in return for registering? They offer only one more article, period. That’s pretty restrictive. This works since they produce valuable long form content and they’ve been doing this for a while.

Results? They grew their email list and paid subscriptions by an additional 20% month over month.

So if you’re offering valuable pieces of content, visitors will register to read it. You then have them on your newsletter, and your newsletter sends that person back to your website over and over again, over time to see your paid subscription prompts. This increases chances over time that they convert and pay for a subscription.

One additional tactic to limit content access is to stop people from going incognito to get around your paywall. That’s a big hole in metered paywalls. This hole is plugged by tracking IP addresses of your readers that come in and blocking additional article views (learn how with our IP Blocker). When they go to a different browser or when they switch to incognito, they still get prompted to subscribe.

So what’s the bottom line?

  1. Set your meter to one free article per month
  2. Set up a free registration to offer access to a few free articles each month (go with two or three).
  3. If you’re a long form magazine style publisher, you may only offer just one additional article as Small Boats does

The best thing about this is it’s super easy to test. Once your meter is all set up, you can change those metering numbers in the backend. Test every 30 days and see what happens to your free registrations and paid subscriptions.

If you want to learn more about setting up a free registration, growing your mailing list, growing paid subscriptions, make sure you download our Subscription Accelerator™ guide.

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