Revitalization News finds digital publishing success with a metered paywall and (!) web issues

Publishing a digital magazine, newsletter, newspaper, webzine (or whatever you wan to call it) with a metered paywall in combination with live web issues is a profitable combo.

  • Employing a metered paywall with your publication means your content is included in search engine results and is easy for your readers to share in social media. [A metered paywall will allow your readers to access some content before a prompt to subscribe.]
  • Web issues, where you bundle content the same way you’d bundle a printed publication, also means it’s searchable and social… a big digital upgrade from PDFs or flipbooks (which, in general, aren’t searchable and sharable).

Revitalization News is a model website that’s taken advantage of these tools to create a sleek, content driven digital publication.

Background: Revitalization News is a niche bi-monthly digital publication that has articles focusing squarely on restoring, rehabilitating and revitalizing unhealthy and unproductive places back to health and beauty.

Strategy: Offer up great content at a great price (or free!). Subscribers (who are passionate on the subject) also have the opportunity to write for the publication.

On first glance, they keep it simple and clean for the reader:

  1. A masthead that not only offers the publication’s logo, but also a tagline that summarizes the publication’s niche.
  2. A simple yet effective navigation menu with the basics: Latest issue, back issues [Library], Subscribe, Submit News, Strategy Guide, About, Login/Logout
  3. Sidebar listing article categories.
  4. Social media sharing (WordPress plugin: Social Media Feather).
  5. 4 easy-to-understand subscription levels (more on this below).
  6. Opportunity for subscribers to submit content.
  7. Search bar the top of each page (more on this great tool below).


Q: How do they keep their site’s issues, articles, and other content easy to navigate and offer up well-crafted subscription offers?

A: Using great WordPress plugins that all work together, seamlessly.

  • IssueM: A widely used plugin that adds issue management to articles in WordPress. IssueM keeps articles organized by issue (and also by category). This organizational tool makes it easy for the reader to know what they’ve read and see when new issues are published.
  • Leaky Paywall: For Revitalization News, this plugin lets readers view 4 free articles before seeing a request to subscribe. A publisher can set this up to be any number of articles (1 or more). Leaky Paywall offers up two payment gateways (Stripe & PayPal) making it super easy for the reader to sign up.
  • Article Countdown nag (add-on to Leaky Paywall): A reminder that pops out after reading 1 article alerting the reader that there are only a few free articles remaining.
  • Leaky Paywall Reporting Tool: Within the WordPress dashboard it’s easy to create reports that show subscriber information. This tool allows you to filter and download the information you need to analyze subscriptions.
  • MailChimp for WP: Synchronizes subscriber lists with mail chimp lists for a coordinated email plan.

Subscription Levels

As for advice, one things would be that publishers should take advantage of the freedom to experiment that the web offers, so they should try out different paywall configurations and pricing options before settling on one to stick with. Doing that early in the publication’s history doesn’t cause any real problems, since the traffic is low. But our current model is likely the one we’ll stick with, after spending about 9 months experimenting with others.

Also, choosing a reliable web developer you can stick with is key, since they will build up a memory of what has worked and not worked in the past, which makes them a tremendous asset. – Storm Cunningham, Publisher, Revitalization News

They offer 4 distinct subscriptions – starting with free! Surprisingly, according to Mr. Cunningham, “the 3-for-2 deal is the most popular”. Mr. Cunningham’s experimentation with subscription levels has paid off. Subscribers see the value they’re getting and don’t mind paying for it.


Subscribers Can “Be A Reporter”

In this type of niche industry, Revitalization News welcomes articles from subscribers. They use a straightforward method – have the reader submit all of their information for review with an online form. Simple.

A few tools that make the site great:

Simplemag theme for WordPress – very popular responsive magazine theme.

Geo Mashup: A cool plugin that let you save location information for posts and pages and displays on a Google (or Leaflet, OSM) map. It’s been out since 2005!


Search Meter plugin: Keep track of what your visitors are searching for on your site. After it’s activated you can check the Search Meter section in your WordPress dashboard to see what your visitors are searching for on your site. This will help in determining future article subjects and possible issue themes.

WP Smush plugin: Speed up your site’s loading time by optimizing all of your images for the web. This plugin does it all for you. It will reduce your file size without losing quality. “The faster your site loads, the more Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will like it (source: WP Smush).” There is a free and a ‘pro’ version of this plugin available.

IssueM plugin: IssueM creates a new post type on your WordPress dashboard called Articles. In WordPress: Set up a new issue. Then create and publish your articles and assigned them to an issue. Once your articles are all published in WordPress, the issue is ready to go live. You simply change your issue to Live status and all of your articles are published simultaneously. The last issue created becomes the current issue and is automatically displayed on your current issue page (usually the home page). Publishing with issues (instead of on-off blog posts) has an added benefit: readers remember which issues they’re read (easier than remembering every single article). It also has a perceived greater value.

Leaky Paywall plugin:  This plugin lets your readers view X number of free articles per Y number of days, before they need to subscribe. Every article and blog post shows up in Google search, sending you significantly more potential subscribers. Each one of your blog posts/articles can be shared on social media channels to reach a market of potential subscribers you may not have reached via regular marketing channels. Social media sharing has almost surpassed google/yahoo searches for readers finding content.

Revitalization New's best-selling subscription level (Leaky Paywall dashboard in WordPress)
Revitalization New’s best-selling subscription level (shown: Leaky Paywall dashboard in WordPress)

Revitalization News confirms what we already know: WordPress and all of the tools, plugins, add-ons that are all available today are a clear choice to be able to set up a great digital publication and make money from the get go.

When you’re ready to set up your digital publication with these tools, be sure to reach out to the zeen101 development team. They’re the developer of the IssueM plugin, Leaky Paywall plugin, a digital publication App plugin  called Unipress, and a host of other plugins and add-ons for digital publishers.

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