Contactless access to information as an opportunity for digital subscriptions 

Because they fear delivery problems, many publishers release the digital editions of their magazines and newspapers for print subscribers. On the one hand, this prevents readers from “weaning” themselves off their magazines, i.e. not missing them, if they do not receive them. On the other hand, this approach offers the chance to realize the long-awaited migration from print to online subscriptions and to monetize online content. 

Alexander Münch (CBDO at dsb ccb solutions) and Martin Wepper (Managing Director at dsb ebusiness) on freemium models in the crisis and successful paywall models for the post-corona period.

Giving print subscribers access to digital editions sounds easy. How quickly can publishers implement this, including the authentication process, online?
Martin Wepper: Most publishers use their own subscription shop or the e-shops of media sales agencies to distribute their magazines and newspapers. If an Online Customer Service (OCS) is already set up on these websites, the reader-related activation of e-magazines can be done quickly and easily. In this self-service area, subscribers usually have the option of taking out subscriptions online or changing their address.
Alexander Münch: The customer self-service front end is linked to the subscription management software. The data between the two systems is exchanged fully automatically. This ensures that customer service and accounting always have up-to-date and correct information. For the activation of e-papers, we use this reconciliation to authenticate subscribers (so-called issue entitlements). After verification, we grant them online access to their entire print portfolio or offer trial content from other areas.
Martin Wepper: Usability plays an important role here. The login must be fast and convenient.  

Are there any differences between special interest publishers and the publishers of consumer magazines when it comes to free digital editions?
Alexander Münch: Publishing houses from both sectors are currently working with free on e-papers. Both special interest publishers with highly specialized job-related content for architects, engineers or doctors and publishers of leisure magazines are making their digital offerings available to print subscribers. Both are struggling with the same challenges, i.e. in economically uncertain times, readers are reluctant to subscribe to new publications. At the same time, both benefit from the fact that people have more time to read at the moment and are potential future subscribers.
Martin Wepper: “This also offers media companies the chance to complete the long planned migration from print to online subscriptions. To do this, publishers must break away from their previous target group definitions and go one step further, towards reader-specific content offerings. Because only tailor-made free content will later become paid content. 

And when will the payment barrier come?
Martin Wepper: For successful paywalls it is crucial that readers receive really interesting content. Many publishers still have to accept that they won’t reach this goal via persona building. The user behavior of each reader is so individual that it cannot be squeezed into fixed persona structures. Target group definitions such as “Catherine, the affluent mid-forties, employed with a university degree, married, mother” hardly help in terms of reading preference. Because Katharina is an enthusiastic cineaste, politically interested and a passionate hunter.  If you want to monetize content, you have to record preferences in detail and across devices on a user basis. Only then do readers receive relevant content for which they pay. Customers are very “sneezy”.
Alexander Münch: In addition to expertise in e-commerce, media companies need the appropriate business intelligence tools to analyze the user behavior of their readers.

What measures can publishers take to get started immediately?
Alexander Münch: Most of our media houses have PDF files of their print editions. They can offer these for download with little effort.
Martin Wepper: It’s easy to integrate the files on the publisher’s own website or in online subscription shops of media sales partners. Many readers appreciate the PDF format with its individual zoom function.  If you want to turn die-hard print readers into enthusiastic e-paper fans, you can add page-turning effects and an interactive table of contents for optimum reading comfort. If the e-papers are well done, readers quickly feel the advantage of the digital version over the print version. dsb ebusiness supports its customers both in integrating e-publications into existing Internet presences, as well as in the creation of reader-friendly e-papers.  

What is the second step?
Alexander Münch: In the background, publishers should now take care of the technical conditions for the monetization of their paid content. This means to provide interfaces to payment service providers, accounting and subscription management and test them. This is the area of expertise of the developers of dsb ccb solutions. Because of the high demand, we are planning here with lead times. To find ad hoc reputable suppliers who take immediate action is an illusion.
Martin Wepper: The exact form of the future paywall does not have to be determined yet. Publishers need the analysis and BI tools mentioned above in this phase to collect and evaluate as much data as possible on individual reading preferences. Afterwards, they have to adapt the user profile through constantly updated individual content and sharpen proposals. The latter also applies to the preferred payment methods. Individualized Payment offers based on the payment habits of readers will ensure maximum conversion.

This means that publishers should now have the technical infrastructure for a paywall without committing to the definitive expressions?
Alexander Münch: Exactly. The following applies to the paywall: The better the offer to the reader the sooner the payment barrier is overcome. Anyone who now wants to integrate paywalls now, should remain flexible for as many business models and subscription variants as possible.
Martin Wepper: If the hard payment barriers are used, it is important that the entire keyboard of subscription can be billed. Whether club models, subscription-bundles, combination subscriptions, mini subscriptions, vouchers, gift subscriptions, premium subscriptions, trial subscriptions or free e-paper. The more open publishers are in the run-up to the event, the more flexible they create trends or react to changes in the market. The broader the marketing instruments, the easier the path to direct content marketing. 

These instruments therefore offer publishers an alternative way to market their digital content themselves and to gain their own subscribers, instead of via newspaper and online magazine platforms like blendle, readly or Apple News?
Alexander Münch: Yes, because that is much more attractive for media companies.
Martin Wepper: At the moment, publishers have the opportunity to directly attract readers to their titles to inspire them with custom-fit content, and in the long term with suitable paywall offers. They should use this opportunity.

Paywall advice desired?

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This is how it works with paid content: 

Many newspapers are reporting record sales of digital subscriptions, while others focus on free trial offers and later content monetization. Now at the latest, publishers should put their technology to the test. Publishers that want to act flexibly and be fit for the future should consider these aspects in the keep a lookout: 

Technology checklist for successful content monetization

  • Interfaces for the data exchange between webshop, subscription management software, media distribution partners, payment service providers, accounting, customer service etc. are available
  • An Online Customer Service (OCS) has been set up
  • Authentication and entitlement processes can be performed in real time
  • Phase 1: Offer magazines or individual e-papers as PDF download 
  • Phase 2: Reader-specific content is provided based on user behavior & reading preferences. Readers receive individualized payment offers based on their payment habits. 
  • The paywall has to map different business models (hard, soft & metered paywall). So you remain flexible for strategy adjustments. 
  • Wide variety of subscriptions for sales & customer loyalty programs can be billed: club models, subscription bundles, combination subscriptions, mini subscriptions, vouchers, gift subscriptions, premium subscriptions, trial subscriptions, free e-paper, company subscriptions, individual prices, etc. 

About dsb:

The customer care and billing platform ccb by dsb is Europe’s leading subscription management platform for the publishing industry. More than 8.5 million subscribers are managed here. Well-known national and international publishers rely on dsb ccb solutions when it comes to ready-to-use integrations for various paid content concepts.

dsb ebusiness supports its customers in the realization of comprehensive e-shop solutions. The service portfolio includes e-consulting as well as the integration of paywalls. Proprietary developments in the area of data warehouse enable customers to carry out complex analyses and precise action control.

Among the dsb group’s clients are well-known international publishers and publishing service providers such as FUNKE direkt, Vogel Business Media or Future Publishing PLC, as well as renowned branded companies such as Orsay or Betty Barclay.