In Corona times, many publishers make the digital editions of their magazines and newspapers available to print subscribers. On the one hand, this prevents readers from "weaning themselves off" their magazines and cancelling. On the other hand, this approach offers the opportunity to realize the migration from print to online subscriptions and to monetize online content.
Alexander Münch (CBDO at dsb ccb solutions) and Martin Wepper (Managing Director at dsb ebusiness) on freemium models in the crisis and successful paywall models for the post-Corona era.
Giving print subscribers access to digital editions sounds simple. How quickly can publishers implement this online, including the authentication process?
Martin Wepper: Most publishers use their own subscription store or the e-shops of media sales agencies to sell their magazines and newspapers. If an Online Customer Service (OCS) has already been set up in these websites, the reader-related activation of e-magazines can be done quickly and easily. In this self-service area, subscribers usually have the option of taking out subscriptions online or changing their address.
Alexander Münch: The customer self-service frontend is linked to the subscription management software. The data between the two systems is exchanged fully automatically. This ensures that customer service and accounting always have up-to-date and correct information. For the activation of e-papers, we use this reconciliation to authenticate subscribers (so-called issue entitlements). After verification, we grant them online access to their entire print portfolio or offer taster content from other areas.
Martin Wepper: Usability plays an important role here. Logging in has to be fast and convenient.
Are there any differences between trade publishers and publishers of general-interest magazines when it comes to free digital editions?
Alexander Münch: Publishers from both sectors are currently working on e-paper releases. Both special interest publishers with highly specialized job-related content for architects, engineers or doctors and publishers of leisure magazines are making their digital offerings available to print subscribers. Both struggle with the same challenges, i.e. in economically uncertain times readers are reluctant to take out a new subscription. At the same time, however, both benefit from the fact that people have more time to read at the moment and are potential future subscribers.
Martin Wepper: It also gives media companies the opportunity to complete the long-planned migration from print to online subscriptions. To do this, publishers need to move away from their previous target group definitions and go one step further, towards reader-specific content offerings. After all, only tailored free content will later become paid content.
And when will the pay barrier come?
Martin Wepper: For paywalls to be successful, it is crucial that readers receive really interesting content. Many publishers still have to accept that persona building won't get them there. The user behavior of each reader is so individual that it cannot be squeezed into fixed persona structures. Target group definitions such as "Katharina, the affluent woman in her mid-forties, employed with a university degree, married, mother" are of little help when it comes to reading preferences. After all, Katharina is an avid cineaste, politically interested, and passionate hunter. If you want to monetize content, you have to record preferences in detail and across devices on a per-user basis. Only then will readers receive relevant content that they will pay for. Customers are very "sneezy"
Alexander Münch: In addition to expertise in e-commerce, media companies need the appropriate business intelligence tools to analyze the user behavior of their readers.
What measures can publishers start with immediately?
Alexander Münch: Most of our media houses have PDF files of their print editions. They can offer these for download with little effort.
Martin Wepper: Embedding the files on the publisher's own website or in the online subscription stores of media sales partners can be done quickly. Many readers appreciate the PDF format with its individual zoom function. If you want to turn die-hard print readers into enthusiastic e-paper fans, you can add page-turning effects and an interactive table of contents for optimum reading comfort. If the e-papers are well done, readers will quickly notice the advantage of the digital version over the print edition. dsb ebusiness supports its customers both in integrating the e-publications into existing websites and in creating reader-friendly e-papers.
What is the second step?
Alexander Münch: In the background, publishers should now create the technical conditions for monetizing their paid content. This means providing and testing interfaces to payment service providers, accounting, and subscription management. This is the area of expertise of the developers at dsb ccb solutions. Because of the high demand, we plan with lead times here. Finding ad hoc, reputable providers who will take action immediately is an illusion.
Martin Wepper: The exact form of the later paywall does not have to be determined now. Publishers need the aforementioned analysis and BI tools in this phase to collect and evaluate as much data as possible on individual reading preferences. After that, they need to sharpen the user profile by constantly adapting individual content suggestions. The latter also applies to the preferred payment methods. Individualized payment offers based on readers' payment habits later ensure maximum conversion.
So that means publishers should create the technical infrastructure for a paywall now, without committing to the definitive features?
Alexander Münch: Exactly. The following applies to the paywall: The better the offer is tailored to the reader, the more likely it is that the paywall will be overcome. Anyone who decides on paywall integration now should remain flexible for as many business models and subscription variants as possible. After all, you don't want to put the brakes on later strategy adjustments right from the start.
Martin Wepper: If the hard paywall is used, it is important for online sales that the entire range of subscriptions can be mapped and billed. This can then be used to play well with individual readers: Whether club models, subscription bundles, combination subscriptions, mini subscriptions, vouchers, gift subscriptions, premium subscriptions, trial subscriptions or free e-papers. The more openly publishers position themselves in advance, the more flexibly they can create trends or respond to changes in the market. The broader the range of marketing tools, the easier the path to direct content marketing.
So these tools offer publishers an alternative to marketing their digital content themselves and acquiring their own subscribers, rather than via newspaper and magazine platforms like blendle, readly or Apple News?
Alexander Münch: Yes, because this is much more attractive for media companies. In this way, a publisher can respond to its customers in a more direct, personalized, and thus more tailored way.
Martin Wepper: At the moment, publishers have the opportunity to interest readers directly in their titles, to inspire them with precisely tailored content, and to bind them in the long term with suitable paywall offers. They should take advantage of this opportunity.
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Technology checklist for successful content monetization
The customer care and billing platform ccb by dsb is Europe's leading subscription management platform for the publishing industry. More than 8.5 million subscribers are managed here. Renowned national and international publishers rely on dsb ccb solutions for ready-to-use integrations for a wide range of paid content concepts. dsb ebusiness supports its customers in the implementation of comprehensive e-shop solutions. In addition to e-consulting, the service portfolio also includes the integration of paywalls. In-house developments in the area of data warehousing enable customers to carry out complex analyses and precise action control. In addition to well-known international publishers and publishing service providers such as FUNKE direkt, Vogel Business Media and Future Publishing PLC, the dsb group's clients also include renowned branded companies such as Orsay and Betty Barclay.