Where does the paywall go?

After seeing Steve Yelvington’s paywall infographic this week I was struck by two things.

1) I recognized the pattern

2) it seemed to underestimate (graphically speaking) the effect of loyal visitors we see on our own site.

Take a look:

Click on that graphic to see a slightly larger version. Basically, we see about 50% of our traffic come from the 3% of our readership representing our two most loyal cohorts: ‘daily’ and ‘loyal’ visitors. Those readers come to the site at least 5 times per week. There are not many of them, but they are persistent.

So, that upside-down and lopsided Bell Curve causes a few problems. If you wanted (hypothetically) to put up a paywall – where do you put it?

The readers on the far left are not highly engaged with your site, many are one-time visitors even if they are local. But, there are a lot of them!

The readers on the far right are highly engaged, mostly local but they are probably too few to build a subscription model with.

That leaves the happy medium – the occasional and weekly visitors who visit often enough, and generate enough traffic to be valuable both for CPM and potential premium offerings. But of course how would you target them with any premium model without risking either raw uniques of the fly-bys or the massive page view generation of the loyals?

No seriously, how would you? And that probably explains why we are hearing a lot of talk about paywalls this year, but aside from some unique instances – not much action so far.

  • iduncan

    Maybe you should put the pay wall to keep all the fly-by visitors out. Say if you come back to this site 10 times a month you can have it for free. Then you incentivise people to keep coming back and can force them to be loyal readers. It's probably how Stalin would run the internet.

  • dkiesow

    Well – not sure if that is a serious comment or not but I have heard that concept raised before. As funny as it spimds charging people less the more ads they viewed makes some twisted economic sense even if it lacks any practical application.

  • dkiesow

    For meta-reference, here are the bit.ly and delicious trails for this post:bit.ly: http://bit.ly/info/6QmVeBdelicious: http://bit.ly/5eAsdO

  • MizzouBentley

    The pro & con argument may also hang on the function you seek from the paid wall. If you are looking for the maximum number of uniques hoping advertisers will bite or for the altruistic desire to give information to the masses, then the paid wall might be wrong. But if you are looking for profit to support your newsroom, the only current viable source is the print publication. A paid wall does a very good job of protecting the print circulation base and emphasizes the hometown “loyals” that local advertisers want. It's a trade-off between long-term speculation and near-term pragmatism. Pass the Rolaids.

  • dkiesow

    Clyde -Adding to the problem is the face that local v.s. away and fly by v.s. loyal is going to be weighted differently and valued differently at every publication.In our case there is not a ton of difference between the five cohorts in terms of where they come from e.g. their value to local advertisers.As a percentage of total visits per cohort – the 'locals' are:fly-by: 42.85%occasional: 70.2%weekly: 75.33%daily: 75.96%loyal: 73.5%So except for some Google influence on the fly-bys, we have a huge majority local presence in our traffic. Probably as you might expect for a small local paper.So I would think a hypothetical strategy could be to encourage the fly-by to become an occasional, and an occasional to become a weekly and so on. Ultimately it seems necessary to provide a path for the loyal to become either a print-online hybrid subscriber, or at least a premium-online subscriber.

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  • iduncan

    Maybe you should put the pay wall to keep all the fly-by visitors out. Say if you come back to this site 10 times a month you can have it for free. Then you incentivise people to keep coming back and can force them to be loyal readers.

    It's probably how Stalin would run the internet.

  • dkiesow

    Well – not sure if that is a serious comment or not but I have heard that concept raised before. As funny as it sounds charging people less the more ads they viewed makes some twisted economic sense even if it lacks any practical application.

  • dkiesow

    For meta-reference, here are the bit.ly and delicious trails for this post:

    bit.ly: http://bit.ly/info/6QmVeB
    delicious: http://bit.ly/5eAsdO

  • MizzouBentley

    The pro & con argument may also hang on the function you seek from the paid wall. If you are looking for the maximum number of uniques hoping advertisers will bite or for the altruistic desire to give information to the masses, then the paid wall might be wrong. But if you are looking for profit to support your newsroom, the only current viable source is the print publication. A paid wall does a very good job of protecting the print circulation base and emphasizes the hometown “loyals” that local advertisers want. It's a trade-off between long-term speculation and near-term pragmatism. Pass the Rolaids.

  • dkiesow

    Clyde -

    Adding to the problem is the fact that local v.s. away and fly by v.s. loyal is going to be weighted differently and valued differently at every publication.

    In our case there is not a ton of difference between the five cohorts in terms of where they come from e.g. their value to local advertisers.

    As a percentage of total visits per cohort – the 'locals' are:

    fly-by: 42.85%
    occasional: 70.2%
    weekly: 75.33%
    daily: 75.96%
    loyal: 73.5%

    So except for some Google influence on the fly-bys, we have a huge majority local presence in our traffic. Probably as you might expect for a small local paper.

    Potentially a strategy could be to encourage the fly-by to become an occasional, and an occasional to become a weekly and so on, pulling them up the value chain for CPM if nothing else.

    Ultimately it seems necessary to provide a path for the loyal to become either a print-online hybrid subscriber, or at least a premium-online subscriber.

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  • iduncan

    Sort of semi-serious I guess. I don't think it would actually work because the quality of those visitors would be way down. Why would they actually read your content and let their eyeballs wander onto the ads and – god forbid – actually click on them? You'd need a pretty sophisticated system to stop people just clicking to jump over the barrier.

  • iduncan

    Sort of semi-serious I guess. I don't think it would actually work because the quality of those visitors would be way down. Why would they actually read your content and let their eyeballs wander onto the ads and – god forbid – actually click on them? You'd need a pretty sophisticated system to stop people just clicking to jump over the barrier.

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