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Oct. 2, 2018, 11:01 a.m.
Business Models

It’s not just as easy as launching a paywall (not that putting up a paywall is always particularly easy either): Transitioning your news organization from an advertising model to one that relies on reader revenue is tricky for a lot of reasons. That’s from a new API report by Damon Kiesow, who’s held positions at McClatchy and The Boston Globe and is currently Knight Chair in digital editing and producing at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Among the recommendations in the report:

Think about ditching some of the ads. If your focus is now reader loyalty, rather than high pageviews that drive high advertising rates, you may need to get rid of some of your most annoying advertising — the popups, autoplay audio and video, and redirects that felt more like necessary evils when you were primarily courting advertisers.

— Work toward “having a ‘single view’ of each reader and speaking in a ‘single voice’ to them.” It’s challenging but essential to try to figure out how to interact with individual readers across the various platforms where they access your content. As the situation stands for most news organizations now:

— We have no full picture of the potential cross-platform business value of individual visitors.

— We are unable to consistently personalize the features and content of our products to encourage engagement and subscription.

— We are wasting time and money through uncoordinated marketing efforts that lead readers to unsubscribe from our email communications.

— We are speaking to readers in a generic and unpersuasive voice that does not respect their time, appeal to their interests, or increase their likelihood to subscribe.

Goals should include:

— Providing each visitor with a more relevant experience and increasing their engagement with our journalism.

— Recognizing patterns among individual visitor behaviors that indicate likelihood to subscribe.

— Targeting content, products, services and offers to potential subscribers.

— Reducing conflicting messages (emails, ads, alerts) that do not serve both a business goal and a reader need.

— Work to figure out who is likeliest to subscribe. “A simple framework you can use to quantify a visitor’s propensity to subscribe is based on just three things: How did they arrive on your site, where are they located and what section did they read?”

“A local reader coming directly to your site for the fourth time this week is a potential customer, while an international visitor following a Facebook link is probably not,” Kiesow writes. You can upgrade to more sophisticated tools later, but it’s no reason not to work with what you have for now.

The full report is here.

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