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7

Respect the non-paying audience

“I was floored when a publisher said they hit their non-member email list with a whopping 15 promotional come-ons in an average month.”

I recently attended a Google News Initiative Local Summit in Chicago. A room full of newspaper, pureplay, and a few TV folks spent two days talking about how to adapt to a changing local news landscape.

The topic on everyone’s mind: how to grow reader revenue. With most categories seeing increasing challenges — including and especially advertising — reader revenue is the phrase on everyone’s lips.

A year ago, I wrote about my experiment around what I call a timewall. Instead of a hard or soft paywall, paying members get the benefit of early access to content in exchange for their payment (along with some other perks). Just last week, the site hit its first-year membership goal — and is generating tens of thousands in reader revenue — without locking the public out of a single story.

As we enter 2020, I believe that the big experimentation space will be the fusion between growing membership and email newsletters.

At BoiseDev, we don’t send purely promotional emails — ever. I was floored when a publisher said they hit their non-member email list with a whopping 15 promotional come-ons in an average month.

How do we use email to grow our paid member business? By anchoring the emails we send with content.

Each week, non-paying members get the BoiseDev Download (here’s a sample). It’s a quick check of some of the top headlines of the week. It starts, however, with a membership offer. This accomplishes two goals: It continues to incentivize return visits — and helps drive new paid memberships.

Plus, it feels a hell of a lot more respectful to the end user than sending 15 spammy messages a month.

Because our model will always be predicated on multiple revenue streams — including, yes, advertising, it’s important to drive traffic — especially from high-value users who have already given us their email addresses. And incentivizing them to pay for the product in a content-rich environment helps drive conversions.

In 2020, I look to more publishers finding smart ways to grow their reader revenue business in ways that respect the audience.

Don Day is publisher of BoiseDev.

I recently attended a Google News Initiative Local Summit in Chicago. A room full of newspaper, pureplay, and a few TV folks spent two days talking about how to adapt to a changing local news landscape.

The topic on everyone’s mind: how to grow reader revenue. With most categories seeing increasing challenges — including and especially advertising — reader revenue is the phrase on everyone’s lips.

A year ago, I wrote about my experiment around what I call a timewall. Instead of a hard or soft paywall, paying members get the benefit of early access to content in exchange for their payment (along with some other perks). Just last week, the site hit its first-year membership goal — and is generating tens of thousands in reader revenue — without locking the public out of a single story.

As we enter 2020, I believe that the big experimentation space will be the fusion between growing membership and email newsletters.

At BoiseDev, we don’t send purely promotional emails — ever. I was floored when a publisher said they hit their non-member email list with a whopping 15 promotional come-ons in an average month.

How do we use email to grow our paid member business? By anchoring the emails we send with content.

Each week, non-paying members get the BoiseDev Download (here’s a sample). It’s a quick check of some of the top headlines of the week. It starts, however, with a membership offer. This accomplishes two goals: It continues to incentivize return visits — and helps drive new paid memberships.

Plus, it feels a hell of a lot more respectful to the end user than sending 15 spammy messages a month.

Because our model will always be predicated on multiple revenue streams — including, yes, advertising, it’s important to drive traffic — especially from high-value users who have already given us their email addresses. And incentivizing them to pay for the product in a content-rich environment helps drive conversions.

In 2020, I look to more publishers finding smart ways to grow their reader revenue business in ways that respect the audience.

Don Day is publisher of BoiseDev.

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