Click-through rates for display ads have been on the decline for years. Smart Insights puts them at .05 percent as of March 2017. If revenue is your goal, paid content can be your ticket to increased monetization. The following tips are a useful roadmap for adding paid content to your monetization plan.
When transitioning to a paid content model, it’s important to introduce your audience to the concept and walk them through the process to avoid backlash. Below are guidelines that should be helpful:
Communication is Key
If your content has been ad-financed (“free”) and you want to start charging for access, give users a good explanation for doing so. Make your reasoning clear, concise, and visible to all users over a gradual transition period to give them enough time to accept your terms and ask questions.
Segment your Audiences
Don’t put all of your content behind a paywall right away. Make it easy for users to buy one or two individual articles before making a larger commitment. For users who like to read a lot of articles at once, offer time passes, and save subscriptions for your loyal fans. Offer a limited number of free articles for readers not familiar with your brand as an opportunity to test out content and understand its value.
Protect Existing Subscribers
If you already sell memberships on your website and want to introduce the sale of individual articles or broaden your paid content offering, make sure existing subscribers can access paid content with their current membership—and make sure they know how.
Proactively Offer Assistance
Communicate clearly where users can get help if they have purchase or payment-related questions. For example, your payment service can answer all payment and invoice-related questions, but when it comes to price-setting questions, content providers should reply directly to potential buyers to maintain a trusting relationship and explain their unique value offering.
Tease Content and Close the Sale
Use a teaser to intrigue your audience into clicking through for more. We recommend two tactics: Provide a long teaser that summarizes the content but does not include the result or outcome of your post. Or, display a significant amount of the full content below a blurry overlay so that potential readers can estimate the amount of content you’ll provide. Both methods motivate users to buy your content and avoid disappointment by managing their expectations.
Pricing your Content Correctly
Putting a price tag on your content isn’t actually the problem – pricing it correctly is the hard part. That said, there is no one universal answer to the question of the correct price. It’s good to start by weighing the following questions:
Is my content unique? If you have mass content that can be found anywhere else, there isn’t much-added value to your content offering and therefore no real reason to charge a higher price.
Can I offer special interest content? Users interested in a particular narrow topic might be willing to pay significantly higher prices than readers of general interest content.
Am I selling the right type of content? Aside from quality, users basically pay for convenience: Depending on your audience, they might prefer one content type over another – and pay more for a short explanatory video than for a long plain text article.
How deep is my content? Are you providing relevant information in a condensed form, or are you going into depth of detail where no one else has gone before? Be aware that there is no single rule of thumb: Longer and more detailed articles are not necessarily better. We’ve seen relatively short-but-precise articles succeed and longer, shallower articles fail.
What’s my content’s shelf life? Are we talking about a timeless evergreen content or are you selling breaking news, which loses its value after 15 minutes? Depending on the shelf life of your content, you should consider dynamic pricing: Start high on the first day, then lower the price later—in line with the reduced willingness to pay.
What are my costs? It’s worth considering which costs are directly and/or indirectly attached to your content. If for example, you’re producing high-quality e-learning videos, you might take time, equipment, assistance, and licenses into account when pricing your content.
In addition to pricing content, there are also some interesting factors to consider regarding your audience:
Professional or private interest: When it comes to spending money, users are more willing to spend their company’s cash than their own. Also, if your content can add significant business value, higher prices will very likely be more easily accepted.
Usage intensity and frequency: If users only return once a month to read all new articles published since their last visit, you’ll want to offer a higher-priced day pass. If some return on a weekly basis and only read one article, you want to offer individual articles for sale.
Relevant Reach: Ensure you’re targeting the right audience, whether it’s a few people with a willingness to pay for special-interest content or a lot of people with a broad variety of interests.
Picking the right plugin
Look for a provider to take care of the administrative stuff so you can focus on your content. If you go with a micropayment tool, make sure it offers most of the following functionalities:
Sales Statistics: This data measures the success of your pricing experiments and enables you to see how different categories or content types perform—an absolute necessity for the paid content model.
Flexible pricing options: From very low micropayments to higher prices, from static to dynamic prices, make sure the tool you pick offers the flexibility you need to get into the paid content business.
Relevant payment methods: The more methods you can offer to your target group, the higher your conversion rate in the payment funnel.
Manage existing subscribers: Make sure your existing subscribers bypass your new payment system or let them log in with their existing credentials.
Be crawler-friendly: Confirm your payment plugin can deal with crawlers (e.g. in terms of third-party cookies). You want crawlers to see what your users see. So forget “cloaking” and show all your content to crawlers.
Customization options: It’s your website and your brand that makes users buy your content. Ensure that you can customize the appearance of your payment solution to make it blend seamlessly into your website.
Full Service: Dealing with payments yourself can be a real pain. The right plugin will connect to payment methods, send receipts, deal with chargebacks effectively, control access, and provide outstanding customer support.
Go with the Flow
Most of the above will seem natural to you. We’ve seen varied success rates in the implementation of paid content based on how well content providers followed this roadmap. In the long run, if you make your content easy to purchase, don’t rely on a single offering, and respect your users, you’ll be a lot more successful.