Selling digital news archives: The Austin Monitor gets it right

Within the last year the Monitor has doubled its subscriber base (source)

AustinMonitor_HomepageKnowing the value of your publication’s content is essential to long-term success – especially when your publication’s articles and stories are not readily available anywhere else. Take for example, the Austin Monitor. This is a digital publication in a niche industry: reporting on city government’s ongoing accomplishments and local politics.  Their reporters take the hard work out of searching for all of the daily goings-on in the city of Austin, Texas and the surrounding county. This is valuable information for anyone in the public sector (or a casual reader) that wants this information to stay abreast of the ongoing changes in the local government.

Subscribers have three options:

  • There is opportunity for the semi-casual reader to read up to 10 articles/stories per month
  • The ‘enthusiastic’ reader has unlimited articles/stories per month and
  • The serious reader has unlimited access to everything with additional access to ‘archived’ stories.


Selling archives

This is the key: After 90 days, all articles and stories are archived – so only the top-level subscriber has access to them. For anyone doing research on the subject, they’ll need spend more to access the historic data  – but will have an amazing archive to dig through. The Austin Monitor is, in a way, a history book in the writing – not only reporting on the facts, but also allowing subscribers to educate themselves in the process.

Now is this easy? Probably not, yet the Austin Monitor has chosen the platform and the services available online to streamline their business:

1.     The WordPress platform to host their stories and a growing archive. Smart.

2.     Leaky Paywall WordPress plugin to allow new readers to read a few stories for ‘free’ before they are prompted to subscribe. Using this plugin allows Google to crawl the entire site so that all articles are found in a search and can be read – but the paywall enables the reader only to access a few of them before having to pay.

2a. Note: the Auto-Archiver plugin allows Leaky Paywall publishers to automatically archive articles after X number of days. These articles can only be accessible by a selected level subscribers.

AustinMonitor_Email3.     Using the MailChimp email service to send out daily updates with non-premium news – to engage would-be subscribers in the world of local government. Emails are crafted with engaging subject lines, “What we Woke Up To” (one of their daily emails open to anyone, even non-subscribers) and “Quotes of the Day” (to entice a reader to click into a premium article). For example, the What We Woke Up To email has an overview of the top stories that can be found on the Austin Monitor site and also on other local news outlet sites. If any stories catch your eye  you may have to pay if you’ve already ‘used up’ your free allotment.

4.     Stripe is the payment system of choice – a super efficient and user-friendly platform for accepting credit card payments and setting up recurring payments. More detailed information about the Stripe system can be found in this article, Stripe vs. PayPal.

5.     Social media: it’s easy to share articles with the ShareThis WordPress plugin – which has sharing icons on every article for readers to click. It’s easy to install and easy to use as a reader. If a reader doesn’t want to share the love of any particular article, they can also follow the Monitor’s Twitter feed, to keep abreast of new interesting articles.

6.     The Monitor is using other add-ons and plugins to add functionality; most notably: Yoast SEO Plugin, Tablepress and The Events Calendar.

Think about the value your treasure of archives has and what you can do to repurpose or sell them to paying subscribers.

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