Getting people to pay for news is an ongoing struggle in the industry. Adopting subscription-based models is something publishers have either tried and found difficult, or not tried at all because it would likely lead to a loss in readership.
But there are some print legacy organisations that have been successful in their use of paywalls. Many point to the success of The New York Times, which recently passed the milestone for 1m digital readers, four and half years after introducing a metered paywall.
On the final panel of the INMA European News Media conference today, three news organisations shared what they learned from using a subscription-based business model in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Axel Springer’s Bild operates on a freemium model in Germany. It reaches 38.2m people across platforms including print, and around 18.5m online readers monthly.
Its paid content scheme, Bild+, accounts for a big part of this success. In 2013, the majority of the outlet’s revenue came from advertising and selling the mobile and tablet app through iTunes.
“But in the digital world, we knew we can’t make money just from advertising,” said Tobias Henning, general manager premium at Bild, “and we wanted to combine it with sales revenue, rather than substitute it.”
Bild didn’t opt for a ‘hard’ or a metered paywall – the freemium model means 80 per cent of Bild’s content is available for free on the website, while 20 per cent is paid-for.
Henning said this approach gives them control in establishing how many pieces readers should pay for, and which ones.
“Our website is full of pictures and short text, so our readers wouldn’t be able to understand when their meter is ‘full’."
Bild+ offers readers three subscription options: the most successful one is BILDplus Digital, at €4.99 per month, followed by BILDplus Premium at €9.99 per month and BILDplus Komplett, a €14.99 per month bundle that also includes the print newspaper.
Two and a half years later, Bild has more than 292,000 subscribers – the largest part of the revenue still comes from monetising the iOS and Android apps, followed by subscriptions purchases on the website and partnerships with third parties, such as telephone companies.
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