Will selling an ad-free subscription boost revenue?

Addressing the question

Here’s a question publishers ask frequently: Should I offer a subscription level that hides ads? 

A recent meeting with Samnytt, a news publisher based in Stockholm, Sweden, revealed a surprising amount of success with offering a paid subscription that hides all the ads on their website. 

The background debate

The hidden-ad debate has been going on for years. Most publishers suggest that it makes sense for their best, most frequent readers – who are paid subscribers – to see the ads. On the surface, this is a logical argument. 

But the truth is that here is an ad blocker war happening. 40% or more of website visitors come to your website with ad blockers engaged, which means that almost half of your readers don’t want to see ads anyway. So you’re already fighting your own readership. 

On top of all that, most of the readers on your website are casual users.

If you look at your readership, your paid readership, as a percentage of your total readership, it’s likely less than 1%. That means that less than 1% of the readers on your website are paid subscribers. 

Overwhelmingly, most of your traffic is casual visitors. Which means that, even if you hide ads from paid subscribers, more than 99% of your visitors will see your ads. 

So, the answer is: yes, hide those ads to paid subscribers. It won’t really affect your ad rates.

Samnytt: Ad-hiding in action

Let’s take a look at how Samnytt has done it and what the results were. If I go down to this article, we have a prompt to subscribe. And what you see here is a really nice simple choice right in the subscription nag here.

Readers can purchase the Share PLUS subscription, which is the basic subscription for 69 kroner per month. Or you can purchase the Share PLUS Ad-free version for 99 kroner per month. 

If you do the math, you’ll notice that the ad-free version is over 40% more expensive than the basic version, which sounds like an awful lot, but guess what?

They have an 11% upsell rate on the ad-free version.

In other words, over 10% of their paid subscribers decide to pay 40% more simply to not see ads. They’ve offered this option for over a year. 

How this works for you

Think about what you’re doing with your own subscriptions. This is a way to essentially earn more revenue for your subscriptions without having to do anything: you don’t have to produce more content, it won’t make your ad displays suffer. It’s almost free money.

And it’s very easy to set up. With Leaky Paywall, you can use the Add Dropper add-on, in order to hide ads from paying subscribers. Or in WordPress, you can simply target the user subscriber role and hide ads for that. Either way will work. And it will give you a brand new bump in revenues. 

Bonus: Narrowing your subscription offerings

While we were looking into the ad question, we took a look at the percentage of readers that choose a monthly recurring plan versus a six-month plan versus a 12-month fixed plan. 

The conclusion is, for news publishers, you should consider simplifying your offerings to just a monthly recurring plan. 

Over 90% of subscribers that come in and pay choose the monthly recurring. 

This eliminates one of the big challenges in converting paid subscribers, which is confusing the casual reader with too many offers. If you offer somebody five choices, 10 choices, their chances of actually purchasing go down substantially. 

So in this case, if you’re a news publisher, take a look at offering just two choices: recurring monthly regular and recurring monthly ad-free. 

Keep it at that and do what Samnytt did: bump up your subscription revenues without having to do much.

Have questions on hiding your ads or increasing your revenue? Let’s talk

Learn how Leaky Paywall can help grow your subscription revenue