The report provides benchmark numbers for each step, performance optimization insights, and best-in-class publisher case studies. The report is free to downloadand highlights five key ways to increase your conversion rates
1. Paywall’s increase in conversion rates starts from the moment a user arrives on your site
Converting users into subscribers involves a lot more than just clicking through a paywall and paying.
A reader must find your site (acquisition), become increasingly interested (engagement), see your premium content, and be frustrated enough with the paywall to decide to convert.
These last two steps include visibility into your premium offer and paywall and are often overlooked, critical steps in optimizing your subscription strategy.
Premium content visibilityThe percentage of your site’s users who visit premium content and are eligible for a paywall
Number of readers visiting premium content / Total no. the number of visitors to your site
Paywall visibility levelthe percentage of users who visit premium content and see the paywall.
Number of readers who see the paywall / Total number. number of visitors to premium content
If a user never visits premium content and sees a paywall, there is no chance they will convert through this paywall. Therefore, an effective paywall strategy begins by focusing on these first two steps in the funnel, driving users to the wall to make a purchase decision.
2. Niche media has the highest premium content and paywall visibility levels
With 85% average premium content visibility and 74% paywall visibility, specialist media is in the top quartile compared to all publishers in the survey (including news media, B2B, daily regional and digital only).
These niche publishers focus on content, which often results in a highly engaged audience with above-average frequency and volume of visits. For this reason, tighter paywall strategies can be more effective, as higher engagement counteracts frustration.
For other non-news publishers, this highlights the value of finding a niche or producing content “series” and sections that focus on one area to attract interested consumers and are likely to be engaged enough to convert.
The value of this strategy is proven in the next set of study results, which show that the average click-through rate for specialized media is also above average, at 1.99%, compared to the general benchmark of 1.3%.
3. Publishers increasingly adopt more stringent payment strategies (2019 – 2023)
Poole conducted another study in 2019. The Digital Media Reviewfollowing similar figures for 75 French publishers.
The results showed that premium content traffic averaged only 21.3%. In the 2023 report, this indicator reached 56%.
Likewise, paywall viewability (ie, the percentage of traffic that sees the paywall) was 27.7% in 2019, but now averages 29.12%.
This shows that publishers are blocking more and more content through the paywall, placing these premium articles on the homepage and adjusting the paywalls to block more text.
This is not so surprising. Since 2011, when The New York Times introduced its metric paywall model, offering 20 articles per month for free, more and more publishers are following suit, using a digital subscription strategy with a paywall to increase conversions. Today, The New York Times only offers 1 article for free, and even that is blocked by a subscription wall.
4. The visibility of your paywall on a premium article affects conversion rates, but there’s a balance to be found.
The report highlights the huge variation in the level of paywall visibility, that is, how much of an article is blocked by the paywall. The lowest sample in the study is 15%, while the highest is 85%. However, many examples in the market (such as The Washington Post) where publishers block all content provide 100% paid viewability.
As research shows, A/B testing is the only way to find the optimal visibility level for your post.
They advise publishers that you should:
- Installation of a test wallplacing it at different points in the article based on the type of content, for example, leave more of the article open for general news content compared to opinion pieces.
- Use a different wallpaper on mobile devices where the wall appears to be lower on the page than on the desktop
- Optimize the order in which scripts are called on the page adjust the wall to appear sooner in case of bad connection
- You can too consider trial paywalls that block otherwise (full screen, popup or anti-rotation wall)
- Allow journalists to configure paywall placement on their CMP to better adapt paywall visibility to the narrative involved in their work (work the hourglass frameexample)
5. Regularly changing paywall design will have a significant impact on paywall conversion rates
To avoid paywall fatigue, the report highlights the value of regularly updating paywall design to ensure that users who keep going through the other steps aren’t blinded by the wall.
For example, this publisher saw in a study that click-through rates increased every time they changed their paywall design.
As the report shares, one of the most valuable and practical strategies for optimizing paywall click-through rates is a dynamic model where the wall adapts to the user’s profile or context.
How can the wall be adapted?
- Design: colors, images, photos of journalists, format (sign, box or flyer)…
- Offers (annual vs. monthly pricing, discounted offer, number of offers on the wall…)
- Formulation (value proposition, personalization or content type…)
What could the wall be adapted to? (ie reader context or profile)
- The type of content (is this article wall talking about general news or politics), for example, the content gives you important information about the reader’s interests, so use that to your advantage when writing a tailored value proposition.
- The source of the traffic (did this user come from a newsletter, social media, partner…), for example, users coming from a news aggregation site may not yet be aware of the value you offer, so you may want to consider guiding them through a customized site. soft engagement trip, just like Journal du Dimanche did with the update
- The reader’s location, for example a personalized message from The Guardian saying “you’re joining us from France”
Download the full report here or check webinar launch event where we answered questions from the audience.
This article was written by Poool’s research and editorial team.