How to succeed with digital subscriptions as a small local news publisher

An Interview with Tyler Channell

Tyler Channell helps small, local news publishers survive and thrive in the new digital world. The founder of Paywall Project and also head of Success here at Leaky Paywall, Tyler sat down with Pete to offer his wisdom on how small local news publishers can succeed with digital subscriptions. Tyler and Pete discuss two major success stories and offer a load of good tips. Watch the whole video, listen via our Paywall Podcast, or skip down to the highlights below.

The Highlights

  • The biggest challenge: declining print revenues and the need to find digital revenue sources, which means switching from an advertising product to a content subscription product.
  • Digital advertising is a wreck, dominated by Facebook and Google – leaving paid content as the main alternative.
  • A lot of local publishers deal with small populations and possibly poor internet services. But the content itself is the draw: local and irreplaceable.
  • Switching to digital doesn’t necessarily mean discarding print altogether – but print is the walk-in option. The promotion on the website should be all digital.
  • Limiting the options – like most streaming entertainment services – makes it simpler to for readers to be decisive.
  • Offering a PDF or e-edition as a download keeps print alive for old-school readers without all the necessary infrastructure of delivering it door to door.
  • The secret sauce for success as a local news publisher: a good website platform, a growing email list, a social media presence, the right approach to sponsored digital ads, and audience engagement.
  • The right paywall protects your content without blocking access to search engines or social media sharing, enlarging your digital presence while encouraging digital subscriptions.
  • For local publishers especially, social drives traffic. Find where your community lives (check Facebook first), post snippets that drive them back to the site, where they have to register or subscribe after a free article (or two).
  • Offer a short, free trial rather than a discount. Discounts devalue what you’re selling. For a local publisher, trust in the value of the local brand is crucial to local readers.
  • Build up the sense of community: local news covered by locals for locals. Personalize the writers.
  • Free registration also builds the email list. Sending out a newsletter with article excerpts sends people back to the site, where they hit the subscription messaging. Rinse and repeat.
  • Use your social media presence to encourage email sign-ups or a free registration. This is the best use for paid advertising on social media sites.
  • Get sponsors for your newsletter as an additional revenue stream.
  • Be careful with banner ads – they don’t make much money and they irritate the reader. If anything, focus on local advertisers only and offer a subscription option that doesn’t include any ads.
  • In conclusion: paid content is the future for local news publishers – and it works.


Welcome to the paywall podcast. This is episode number 25. Today. We’re gonna talk about how to succeed as a local news publisher and what that secret sauce looks like. I’m here with Tyler channel. From Morganton, West Virginia. Tyler is a very interesting partner that we work with.

He’s the head of success here at levy paywall and he also taught journalism at university of West Virginia and manages a. Burgeoning group of local news publishers and has a ton of experience in helping very small local news publishers grow and make it, especially if they’re coming from print, which most of them are and making that transition to digital.

And before we jump into it, what we’re gonna do in this conversation is really focus on two. Local news publishers that Tyler works with closely they’re both in different markets. So that’s what makes them interesting. And Hey, welcome back, Tyler. Hello? Hello. Good to have you here.

Okay. So now that the intro is done with, we can jump into the the meat potatoes here, and one of the big challenges that. We see you and I see with a lot of publishers is not only are maybe they coming from print and print revenues declining and having to switch to a digital source of revenue that actually works.

But we also work with papers that they’re free. Weeklys right. They’re they’re literally printing. Paper and sending out, 40,000 copies to the to the area for free had been leaning on the ad revenue and are seeing that decline and making the switch to paid. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of friction in this transition from the traditional local.

Print model switching to digital. Anything that strikes you Tyler with that conversation and why don’t you just introduce the couple of. Papers you’d like to talk about. Yeah. Yeah. And when you talk about that, it makes me think about this shift from an advertising product to a content product.

Newspapers have often. And those free newspapers that you talk about that get sent out and are covered with advertising. , that’s been their main source of revenue for a long time, but now there’s a focus on. Content and people paying for that local content that they can’t get anywhere else.

And this conversation can go off the rails quickly. Part of the reason that they have to do that is digital advertising is a wreck Facebook and Google own virtually the entire market there. So publishers don’t have many options and one option that works really well.

Is digital subscriptions people actually paying for content that they read. And yeah, so a couple of different papers that I work with one in particular, the Welch news they’re here in West Virginia. They’re in a very small market in the Southern area of the state. It’s known as coal country.

If you’re familiar with West Virginia Welch is known for at one point having nearly a hundred thousand people in the region during the height of the coal boom, in that region, I grew up near there. I grew up near that part of West Virginia. And now their population, at least in within city limits of Welch is closer to about 2000 or so.

Wow. Wow. Yeah. And access to broadband is not great. You’re in a mountainous area cell service. Isn’t great. A lot of indicators would tell you that this. Not a place to start the digital product. it has every everything about it is just not something that would tell you that you should start a digital product here.

They they, I got in touch with them back in 2018 and worked with them to essentially implement a website with a paywall. And this was just pre COVID, barely January, 2020 just before it all started. And since then they. Managed to amass about 450 paid subscribers on their site from a digital, only perspective.

They don’t even from zero. Yeah. They didn’t even have a website before January, 2020, so right. This was their first experience with having content published on a website and giving people. The option right out of the gate to, to pay for that content.

And they offered a digital and print option for a while. But the data was clear that a digital only. Subscription was the most popular people were signing up for yearly and monthly. And really so even in an area with limited internet access and of the tradition of print, that more people were actually choosing digital only rather than yep.

Interesting. Yep. And, people still subscribe to their print product. But I think a lot of that. Comes over the phone or through, I see walking into the office, that kind of thing. I see, I they still deliver their print product with their local team. They have, yeah, I don’t know how many drivers that they have, but they go out into these West Virginia hollows or haulers as they’re known locally and they deliver papers and keep their, keep their readership informed.

So looking at their website, if you’re with us on YouTube I see that they’re really producing. They’re really delivering digital. Subscription options. That’s right. So how do they handle the print? I told them to pretend like print doesn’t isn’t something that they offer on their website.

Give people if they’re on your, if they’re on your website. don’t give them an option to make your life more complicated. as far as delivering a print product if they want that print product likely they’re not gonna be doing that through the website. And that’s, and I think that’s been the case with them.

A lot of people tend to call or walk in off the street. They do have a public facing office. Now that makes a lot of sense. You’re giving reduced amount of options to you. You and the workflow for supporting digital is ton less than print, but how did you get them there?

That, you talked about a shift in mentality earlier. We know that many publishers are very nervous when it comes to changing the way that they generate their income. How did you get them to not. Publish the print product. That sounds. Like a terrifying position to be in where let’s say, if I’m a publisher and you say your main product, we’re not even gonna promote your previous main product.

On this website. We’re gonna we’re gonna go with all digital, trust me. Yeah. How did that, how did you manage to pull that off? Yeah. That’s a question I hear a lot from publishers is if I go digital. Am I gonna cannibalize my print product and, put myself out of business. With my digital yeah.

My digital product. And ultimately that, that doesn’t happen because first of all, digital is a lot cheaper than print. You don’t have to physically print this stuff and deliver it. The print costs a lot of publishers break even, or they lose a little bit when they print and deliver their news product.

And I do realize that, some of them have to meet. Certain quotas in order to get the price the rate that they, they have with their printers and stuff like that. But ultimately this is a new source of revenue for publishers. And some of it is people who had the print product and now they’re paying you online.

How they’re still paying you. They’re not didn’t dis they didn’t disappear. As far as, how did I convince them? To do this Welch has a a millennial workforce in a lot of ways. They’re, they were eager to try something new. And I think also never having had a website before was a little bit easier to make that transition for them.

They didn’t, they weren’t sold on the idea that they had to offer. And then also just in general, fewer options for people is makes the process. easier for your customer, they don’t have to calculate, they don’t have to, do I want the print? I don’t know if I want the print.

What if I go on vacation? I don’t know about the price. Do I want to, it’s too much to think about. So there’s a reason that Netflix and Hulu and Disney plus, and all these different streaming platforms offer limited options. It’s because they don’t want you to have to think more than just putting your credit card in.

Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. Makes total sense. And it helps The number of people that sign up. So keep it simple. Yeah. That, that I agree that data’s coming out. It’s pretty clear the less, we refer to the New York times quite a lot and yep. If you go there now you get one offer, that’s it, when you’re out of articles while you, your first offer is to register for a few more, which they won’t even tell you how many more

Yep. But then the second offer is one. It’s usually a free trial or paid trial or something like that. Yep. But yeah, there’s no, you’re not choosing from, 12 plans, which they could easily provide. They’re not selling cooking. They’re not, recipes, they’re not selling games.

They’re selling, the subscription to the content as a star as really the gateway into their universe. Yeah. And, the publishers, I know a lot of publishers aren’t like Welch and that they print. Print product in house and they deliver it. A lot of publishers outside of Welch tend to have a third party that prints it.

And then, that third party uses the, USPS to deliver their right their their print product. And I’ve never ran into a newspaper that has. A positive experience with the postal service when it comes to delivering their newspaper. And so a lot of subscribers who go online and they’re able to see that, that not only the articles in a digital link format, but also.

A PDF version or an E edition version of their newspaper, the day that it comes out. , it’s just a much better experience. It’s more affordable for the publisher and long term. Your profit margins are much higher on digital because often those costs are fixed. For sure. For sure.

All right. So let’s we promise we were gonna talk about the tactics of what makes a oh yeah. Local newspaper successful. But before we do that, let’s talk about this, the other publisher that you’re working with, it’s in a very different demographic space. Yep. This is point Rees.

That’s. Yep. And they’re fairly new to your group. That’s right. That’s right. Yep. This is in California. It’s I believe north of San Francisco. It’s a small market. The demographics are much better than a place like Welch. The access, as far as I know the access to broadband and I don’t know about sales service out there.

But I would imagine that their broadband access is a bit better than what we have here in some of the rural parts of West Virginia. Yeah. And they’ve done very well with their pay wall. They were offering an option to subscribe. For content before paywall project, but they were, I believe it was a clunky setup with eCommerce and a number of other systems trying to work together that it was just complicated to manage yeah. A similar market, I think similar, not similar market, but similar size. Like I think there’s only a few thousand people in the area. Gotcha. But similar numbers in terms of revenue. So gotcha. Were they were they nervous about taking them in the direction you took them?

As far as the subscriptions go. Yeah. A lot of publishers are always worried about the bottom line as far as how much it costs per month. . And there are some ways you can offset that, like selling local advertising and stuff like that of offset a monthly fee that you’re not wanting to take on.

But. Generally, I find that monthly fee is often covered in the first week or two depending on the publisher. Oh my Lord. Yeah. So it’s, upfront, it’s scary. I get it right. Any kind of new investment is frightening because you’re not entirely sure it’s gonna work or you’re not entirely sure that people actually will pay for content.

Yeah. That’s local and But they do so in their case, it was more of, we’re gonna, we’re gonna switch platforms, let’s say. And now we need to pay, they’re gonna pay, we’re gonna pay more for for a better subscription solution. So Jesus, it gonna, is it gonna really work? That’s there that’s right.

Yep. Yep. Gotcha. Essentially paywall project simplified their web setup. And their digital subscription set up and took care of that so that they can focus more on content and publishing their stories and their E edition and their newsletter and stuff like that. Oh yeah. Yeah. Simplified things, right?

Yeah. They can work on the stuff that they need to work on, but now what happened? So you, they came off of one subscription system to pay well project now. So what actually happened to the numbers? I know you probably can’t speak. Exact numbers, but was there growth that it stayed the same?

Oh for sure. There’s certainly growth. That’s all I can tell you as far as revenue and subscribers are concerned, but they’ve certainly done very well with it. And continue to do well with it, okay. All cool. All right. So let’s segue now into the, to the sort of this last segment that I think everyone’s been looking forward to, and that.

What is the secret sauce to really making a local news publication work, even if they’re tiny, like a tiny news publisher. I’m gonna just, I’m just gonna list off a few things that we had talked about earlier. But one is obvious and that’s a good paywall system or metered paywall system.

Yep. Starting with good tools. As important. Yep, absolutely. And then building an email list, I think is part of that. I wanted to talk about social media a little bit maybe even about digital ads, good or bad and then a general approach to engaging your audience with the sort of a call to support the publication.

But let’s start with the meter paywall, we’ve covered this a lot, but let’s talk about that as a benefit. And we’ll go on from there and maybe there’s some other things that you wanna jump into as well. Yeah. Okay I’ll start with the meter. Sure. Yeah. That’s kinda paywall is kinda what we do.

And if you’re new to digital subscriptions really the original and current benefit. Of a metered paywall is that you’ll publish content on a website and you’ll have real web articles. Like what you’re looking. If you’re looking at my screen here and all this content, regardless, pretty much, regardless of the settings, get picked up by Google and other search engines so that the articles rank and search, and then also.

All the articles can be shared in social media, on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever the articles get shared. And that was the original concept behind a meter paywall, certainly behind leaky paywall and which was the step beyond the hard paywall, which really was. For most publishers, not a good solution because it was hiding their content from search and social.

It was forcing publishers to do the work of choosing which articles were free and not free. And really the audience needs to choose that. And that’s what the meter paywall does. So that’s the from, and what you’re telling me, that’s the, really the core engine of the new revenue stream, the digital subscription.

Yep. Yep. Definitely. Another Aspect of this is most papers that I work with. If they come in with a large social media presence generally local news are Facebook centric users. A lot of their audiences are using Facebook. And by large, I don’t mean, 10,000 sometimes having 1500 or less right is enough to.

To generate interest when you post your articles on Facebook. And there’s some activity on Twitter, depending on the market that you’re in. But being able to let people know that you have content and publishing that content and letting them find that content. And when they click on it, they’re not, they’re not getting to read it for free.

They’re either being prompted to register or at trial or some kind of. Requirement. Yeah. Yeah. Social definitely drives traffic. And with some publishers like Facebook, as a local news publisher can be a very important tool. Yeah. Yeah. And long term, I have, I’ve always had this fantasy of.

Publishers using Facebook until they no longer have to. That’s probably a different conversation that we could talk about forever, but right. Facebook’s not exactly my favorite platform on earth. I think a lot of people would agree with that, but for local news it certainly there’s no denying that it certainly drives People to, to your content and ultimately to subscribe to your content.

Yeah, so let’s dig in a little deeper with Facebook. So let’s say I’m a local news publisher and I’m publishing my articles on Facebook. Excerpts of articles, essentially. I’m clicking the article. Now I’m heading back to my website as a publisher, my local news site. That’s great. Now what’s the Strat?

Yeah, the strategy is getting them to register on the site. Maybe you give them one free article. They’re able to see what they’re what, you’ve, what, the article that you’ve posted, they’re able to read that then they may be meander over, onto a different article, and now they’re being prompted to register for.

For additional content for free. Yep. That, that is an excellent model. That works. We talk about it all the time. Yep. On this podcast. Yep. Another model that works that I’ve found is offering maybe a bit longer of an excerpt good people, a couple paragraphs of the content ask them to sign up for a free trial.

So taking the Netflix approach, which Netflix no longer does a trial, but most streaming platforms no longer do trials, but offering people a free trial, put that credit card in, get their email address, get their name and information, get them into your newsletter and offer them free access for a few days.

Not a discount, not a 30 cent, for three months of access discount or anything, just a few days, maybe seven at the most and give them access to everything that you offer. And then why not? Why not a discount? It, for me, it, it devalues the journalism, it devalues everything that you offer.

And it sh it tells people that, oh, ultimately what you’re offering me is really. 30 cents for three months. So if I can just sign back up with a different email and a credit card, ultimately that’s what you’re telling me that it’s worth, when’s the last time you, I’m not saying that the values are the same, but when’s the last time you test drove a car and you had to pay, dollar for it and you got to keep it for three months.

You know what I mean? Yeah. It’s better to treat it as a free trial. You’re testing this out. You’re. We’re not placing value on the content, right? With 30 cents for three months we’re doing it based on a free right. ACC, acclimation. Yeah. I like that. Keeping your brand especially for local news, you have such trust and and I think the the power of local news is.

It has the, because local news gets to know the community yep. And done. And it’s local people covering a local community, who’s writing and you might not agree with everything, but at least there’s a level of trust there. You just can’t get any of it way. And we need that today.

We need this, the level of trust to grow. Yep. Yeah. I encourage a lot of local newspapers to do little things. Like you notice on point Reyes. They have a photo of the guy that wrote that article. You’re looking. Oh, yeah. Personalize it as much as you can, let people know that this isn’t some newspaper chain website, from right from, a corporate thing.

This is a local, locally owned enterprise that reports locally. Here’s the person that wrote it. Here’s a photo of that. Yeah. That’s actually a very good detail. Yeah. To, yeah. Leverage the strength of being part of the community. Yeah. Showing that everywhere. Yeah. And you. Please don’t charge 30 cents for three months.

don’t do or 99 cents for three months. Don’t play that game. Yeah. It never works out in the end. Yeah. Yeah. Capturing back to capturing the email whether, which way you do it and the free registration really is a great way to do it. Cuz free converts quite a. More and you want that list to build and it’s gonna build over time and you want to send, use your newsletter to send the articles, the excerpts to, so people click and come back to your website and then hit the paid messaging over and over again.

Yeah. And so that builds the email list. Have you seen any correlation with size of email list to success? In other words, we’re so just from. My neighborhood here. So I live in an area called the upper valley of New Hampshire and it’s about 30 small towns. I actually just looked up the population.

It’s a little under 60,000 people. It’s a very wide geographic area. It goes from. Just about mid New Hampshire to, central Vermont, it’s it’s a very broad region. And I have a friend Rob Gerwin who started daybreak and it’s a he’s covers local news, and he covers it from the angle of, Facebook and list serves and Reddit and all that good stuff.

And. Curating that into a great newsletter. And he’s in an over, let’s see a little over a year. He surpassed 10,000 subscribers. He really focused on his model now is free and donations. It might change, but he grew his email list, from zero to over 10,000. In just over a year and that’s allowed him to attract sponsorships now for his newsletter and he’s in the middle of building, building his website.

And I know we’re trying to push him along a little bit in that direction, but that. That 10,000 mark for him, I know was a really important milestone. Because now he’s, he’s generating the revenue that he needs. And I don’t know the details of his revenues, but I know he’s quite a bit happier and happier space with that.

Do you see anything like with Welch or point res in terms of like, where you need to get your list to. To because, let me just back that up by saying, getting that email address, that is your direct marketing tool, right? That is the number one way to proactively push your news to your reader.

There’s really no other good way to do that. I Push notifications is certainly a good one, but that’s a whole different ball wax. Yep. And all wax everyone has email, so the email newsletter becomes a real. Becomes the number one tool in the toolbox. Any gauge on, where a small news publisher needs to get to?

Yeah. I can tell you that first, that just by having a newsletter and having people that you send out your news to on a weekly or monthly or whatever basis that you publish. Those publishers who move to a pay wall have a lot easier, have a, have an easier time attracting paid subscribers.

You have a built in audience already, even though they’re not on your website yet you’re in their inbox and they’re reading whatever you’re sending them right on a weekly or monthly basis. So it’s a lot easier to transition those readers into paid subscribers. Is there a number That local news publishers need to attain to, do yeah.

Great with digital subs. I don’t know. Most of them are under a thousand. Some of them, a couple thousand. People that subscribe, it all really depends on how big the market is. But honestly if you could get everyone on your newsletter, if you had 500 people or a thousand people all paying $9 a month or whatever, as far as measuring success to me that would be success. yeah. Yep. That sounds good. You said weekly and monthly. I know that daybreak goes out daily. Yeah. Do you is frequency something you cover as far as newsletters? Yeah, most of my publishers are weekly. Yep. And most of them publish their newsletter on a weekly basis, gotcha. Gotcha. As far as publishing it more frequently. I don’t know if it would help a small publisher or not but if you have a lot of content, like daybreak, if they’re, if they got a lot to, to distill then yeah. I could certainly see that that helping out. Yeah. As far as digital.

Yeah. And I’ll just mention them be a little bit more, the concept there is, they’re starting to produce original content, but. The main motivation for the birth of daybreak was that there’s a lot of stuff happening in the community that the valley news, which is the main local paper here doesn’t cover.

There’s just too much happening in any community, even a small community. You have Facebook groups, you have lists list serves for towns. You have Reddit, you have Twitter, you have YouTube, , you. These are all producing content, right? These are all our social content producing platforms that somebody, can keep an eye on and say, Hey, this, somebody saw a bear and up here we get bears in the spring and they do crazy things and they break like bear broken the garage door the other day.

At a neighbor. For, our little town we’re in we’re just over 2000 people. It’s big news. People want to know about it. So even covering small things like that need to happen in an organized ways. So daybreak does that, he basically now gets a lot of submissions for.

And Combs the social media sites for the sort of the best of the day, and then puts out the newsletter. And it’s been a huge hit. Everyone I talk to is just, it’s a huge hit. I would say if you’re a small local news publisher and you’re producing original content, see if you can see if you can find somebody to really.

Put their fingers out on all the social media groups and listers and YouTube channels. And, that are local or slightly regional to the area and pull in the best of that way to really firm up your monopoly on the on the content in the area. Yeah. And what better, what a, a much better way to have someone local Organizing that content and sending it out via newsletter versus it being on a social media platform.

And yeah, there’s a lot of distrust on, on Facebook. So how cool was that to have, yeah, a journal, a local journalist to. Yeah. And if you if you wanna see how that works, just go to and that’ll take you to their newsletter signup form. They there’s no website there, but it will take you to the MailChimp signup and just I would recommend just sign up and start getting his newsletter and you can see how it’s S super clean, super simple, easy to scan in the morning comes in early before seven and.

He’s really made nice business out of it and it’s new, yeah. Something that I think any local news publisher can add to this. Yeah. And if you’re a local news publisher, listen listening to this and you don’t have a website or you’re not really focused on your website.

One thing that you could do right now is. Cultivate a newsletter and get people signed up and you can do that on social media. You can do that on Facebook. You can direct people to your MailChimp newsletter link and get them on board for free. Even if you don’t have a website, just get their, the, their info.

Yep. And start growing that list. And then when you do eventually make the decision, hopefully to go to paid digital subscriptions on your website, you’ll be in a much better place. Yeah. And thanks for. Agree. And thanks for man mentioning Facebook again. So one last comment on . Facebook and any, anything else that you may pay for?

Yeah. So there’s a temptation of boost articles in PA in Facebook, or to create advertising in Facebook to send traffic your way. And the way to look at that is this. This is really not about sending traffic. This is about if you’re gonna pay for something. You need to capture emails. Yeah. That the goal of paying for anything on Facebook, let’s say in social is to capture the email.

A free registration. Yeah. That’s your step number one. But you may also consider if you’re gonna pay for advertising in Facebook that you give away, some content like maybe you offer a A free registration, that’s sort of of special and hidden.

You’re not advertising it, but it gives you more access because, you’re targeting so well in Facebook. And if somebody that sends up, maybe they get a month of free access just from this particular Facebook promotion. But it takes, it links them to a registration form with the, with the one month free trial or, I.

My point is whatever it is. You wanna target and grab that email address. Yeah. Yeah. It’s not about how many people how much, how many page views can we send? Because there’s I’ve seen tons of examples where publishers get 20, 30, 40,000 page views in a single day. Have zero new signups.

Yeah. This is about the quality of those page views. Yes. You want local people to be reading your content. Just anyone on Facebook who happens to see your advertisement. so right. And I know you can target a lot of that stuff, but right. I think the, your money can be better spent in other places versus Facebook.

Yeah. Then, I think that’s a valid point. The free registration, I think for most publishers will do the trick. Yeah. And when posting content to Facebook yeah. Set the one. Yeah. And it’s even easier if you’re in the community. You’re, you’ve been around for a lot of the publishers I work with.

They’re not startups. And they’ve been around forever. So you’ve already got a brand leverage that brand and get those, get your readers to sign up for free and get that newsletter going. And. And get some paid subscribers. And then as you, as that newsletter grows, where you have your list is growing.

You’ll be able to fund sponsors for that newsletter, and that’ll be a nice additional revenue stream. Yeah. Where you can put somebody at, at the top of the newsletter or in the middle and say this newsletter is sponsored by and whatever local organization decides to sign up and local.

All organizations love sponsoring newsletters that target. Market their local base. It’s like I mentioned earlier, it’s direct marketing email is blasted into somebody’s mailbox, their logo and message shows up, for them. And they can’t miss it because they’re reading the newsletter. And that’s the marketer’s dream.

Yeah, targeted email list. And not only that these local subscribers are paying for content . So that’s even more valuable to, to a local advertiser, knowing that this list has already shown a willingness to pay for your content. Maybe there’s a good chance that there’s a willingness to pay for whatever it is that I offer.

Yeah. All right. Let’s switch gears a little bit. Talk about advertising. So if you’re coming from. You’re used to having print advertising carry the day or a big part of it. Now we’re switching to digital. There’s a strong temptation to put a lot of advertising banners on the website. Not gonna say that.

It’s a, it’s a. Awful idea, but I will say that you have to be careful that you don’t get in the way of the reader’s experience. The data is showing just industrywide that digital advertising revenues are dropping because as Tyler, you mentioned before the Facebook and Google is really dominating the scene.

Any do you have any anything that, that. Counters that argument in terms of what digital advertising is doing or do you, in fact, You know is, and I think that’s, now that I say it, it’s probably the reason for your being with pay wall project is helping generate real, a real revenue stream instead of leaning on, especially like Google ads.

Yeah. Yeah. Google ads are generally they don’t pay much at all. And they’re if you’re gonna do advertising on your site there’s certainly local businesses who. We’ll pay for banner ads and stuff like that on your site. I’ve got a number of publishers who do that. But ultimately the shift here for publishers is charging for access to content.

And the last thing you want to do is muck up. That experience for a paying subscriber. Mm. And if you’re paying $9 a month for something, I don’t wanna see all this garbage advertisement from Google ads and, look at the, look at this dinosaur that just came back, these trash ads that, that Google pedals in

Yeah. It’s just better to not do that and focus on the local advertising, if you’re gonna do that. And give your subscribers an option to pay for a plan that removes those advertisements. Oh yeah. So sign up. I pay maybe an extra couple bucks, maybe an extra five bucks, maybe it’s double the cost of a normal subscription.

Yep. And whenever this user logs in and they go on your site, it is a completely ad free experience. And it works most certainly. Does I do it with discovery? I pay extra. I pay the extra, whatever it is, three or $4 per month, because I don’t want, I don’t wanna sit through, I don’t know how many hours that we spend in our life watching commercials and being bombarded with that stuff.

Yeah. So it’s worth it. And your readers will feel the same way. Yeah, YouTube premium got me for exactly that reason. The previous episode podcast episode talks specifically about hiding ads with some neat, which is a news Swedish news publisher and go listen to that.

If you’re interested in that they, the bottom line is they They increased the price of their subscription by over 40% to hide ads. Yep. And over 10% of their subscriber base took them up on that. Yeah. Over, it’s crazy. Over 10% of readers. They’re like, yeah. Heck I’ll pay a lot more to just get rid of the ads.

. Yep. And you’re ma and to publishers who are worried that might offset their revenue from their digital ads. You’re making that money back with your subscribers and this is a small portion, a small sliver of your audience that will do that’s right.

This is not gonna be everybody. But hopefully it will be everybody because then you won’t really care if you have advertising on your site because you are completely funded by your readers and your subscribers yeah. It’s a win-win for you and for the reader.

Agreed. And just to wrap up the advertising conversation, really digital advertising that works today is turned into digital sponsorships. So the idea being. Someone’s like we mentioned before, sponsors your newsletter or somebody sponsors your free registration, which includes, getting their brand in your newsletter or someone sponsors an article, which.

Used to be more popular. I don’t see it as much, but you, in that case, maybe you write a series of articles on COVID or maybe local sports, and you have a local sports organization that sponsors this series of articles. And so you, what you’re doing is you’re delivering a brand in a much more elegant way.

To your readers. It really doesn’t get in the way and most sponsorships work their way into the content of your site. So it works on mobile as well as desktop. And so if you think sponsorship where you can put a package together and have a conversation and it’s more money. So if you need less advertisers or less sponsors and Readers react well to elegant, messaging that’s worked in instead of the banner ads that they’re trying to block with blockers.

Yep. So think sponsorship. Yep. So it’s a quick way to. To generate some revenue. And my favorite is the newsletter approach. Yeah. Local businesses love that, that option. Yeah, even more so than being on your website. So in some cases, Awesome. All right. I think we covered most of what we wanted to cover here.

And more there are other rabbit holes to drill down as far as boosting subscribers, but there will be, there are previous podcast episodes and will be more podcast episodes as we dig into things. But Tyler, thanks so much for coming on and really digging in deep with local news it’s it’s a very important part of our society.

We all need to get together and help. Our local news publishers succeed. It’s part of the foundation of really how we were built as a country. And this is one of the. Small pieces of it. Just helping them succeed. So thanks for coming on. Yeah, absolutely..


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