Paywalls are everywhere right now. Whether it’s the successful pioneers and veterans, or the new kids on the block, everybody is talking about them, considering them, or building them. That, and the membership model, which may or may not involve a paywall, of course.
You can publish 150 posts a day, but if you don’t have return visitors (i.e. the people who don’t want to live without your content), a paywall or content meter is useless. Similarly, you can launch a new subscription offering, but if you can’t convert at least a modest percentage of your current audience to members or subscribers, you’re going to have an expensive uphill battle on your hands. If they don’t love you, they aren’t going to pay you to keep you. It’s that simple.
Loyalty is your one and only point of measurement that will decide your fate in your quest for reader revenue.
And herein lies the challenge. The easiest way to gauge your audiences’ loyalty is to launch the product or put up the gate and watch how your audience reacts. A scary proposal, indeed. No one really wants to throw a party just to see if anyone will show up, right? If they don’t, you’ve invested time and money in a product or technology when your audience was never really there. It’s important to know the difference between visitors and an audience when gauging loyalty.
So, if you want to build a paywall or launch that membership program, ask yourself these questions:
Before you build the P&L on your new reader revenue initiative, start by diving deep into your analytics and understand what content your readers are responding to and returning for. Engage your readers to better understand which ones are your audience and which ones are just visitors. Use these strategies and you’re well on your way.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
More about Melissa: Melissa Chowning is an audience development expert and CEO of Twenty-First Digital operating in Dallas, TX. Twenty-First Digital takes a deep dive into deep-dive into digital strategies and audience development efforts to help you find no-nonsense ways to effectively drive traffic and supercharge interactions with your audience for tangible and lasting results. She studied communications at the University of North Texas, and has made her mark as a development leader for prominent brands, including Portland Monthly, Seattle Met, D Magazine, and D Custom. Melissa was recognized in 2016 as one of Folio’s top 100 Most Important People in Magazine Media.
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