Because they fear delivery problems, many publishers in Corona times activate 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 and possibly giving notice. On the other hand, this approach offers the opportunity 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 store 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 them 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 specialist publishers and the publishers of consumer magazines when it comes to free digital editions?
Alexander Münch: Publishing houses from both sectors are currently working on e-paper activations. 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 take out a new subscription. At the same time, however, both benefit from the fact that people currently have more time to read 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 can'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 "Katharina, the affluent mid-forties, employed with a university degree, married, mother" hardly help in terms of reading preferences. Because Katharina is an enthusiastic cineaste, politically interested and a passionate hunter. If you want to monetize content, you have to capture preferences in detail and across devices on a user basis. Only then will readers receive relevant content that they will pay for.
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.
Which measures can publishers start with 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: Integrating the files on the publisher's own website or in online subscription stores of media sales partners is quick and easy. 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, the readers quickly feel the advantage of the digital version over the print version. dsb ebusiness supports its customers both in integrating the e-publications into existing Internet presences and in creating reader-friendly e-papers.
What is the second step?
Alexander Münch: In the background, publishers should now create the technical prerequisites for monetizing their paid content. This means providing and testing interfaces to payment service providers, accounting and subscription management. This is the area of expertise of the developers at dsb ccb solutions.
Martin Wepper: The exact form of the future paywall does not have to be determined yet. In this phase, publishers need the analysis and BI tools mentioned above to collect and evaluate as much data as possible on individual reading preferences. Afterwards, they must sharpen the user profile by constantly adapting individual content suggestions. The latter also applies to the preferred payment methods. Individualized payment offers based on the payment habits of readers will later ensure maximum conversion.
So does this mean that publishers should now create the technical infrastructure for a paywall without committing themselves to the definitive characteristics?
Alexander Münch: Precisely. The following applies to the paywall: The better the offer is tailored to the reader, the sooner the payment barrier is overcome. Anyone who decides on a paywall integration now should remain flexible for as many business models and subscription variants as possible. After all, one does not want to slow down later strategy adjustments from the outset.
Martin Wepper: If hard payment barriers are used, it is important for online sales that the entire range of subscriptions can be mapped and billed. This is a good way of playing the game for individual readers: Whether club models, subscription bundles, combination subscriptions, mini subscriptions, vouchers, gift subscriptions, premium subscriptions, trial subscriptions or free e-paper. The more openly publishers set themselves up here in advance, the more flexibly they can create trends or react to changes in the market. The broader the marketing instruments, the easier it is to market content directly.
These instruments therefore offer publishers an alternative to marketing their digital content themselves and acquiring their own subscribers instead of using newspaper and magazine platforms such as blendle or Apple News?
Alexander Münch: Yes, because that is much more attractive for media companies. A publishing house can respond to its customers more directly, more personalized and therefore more tailored.
Martin Wepper: At the moment, publishers have the chance to interest readers directly in their titles, to inspire them with customized content and to bind them in the long term with suitable paywall offers. They should take advantage of this opportunity.
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Technology checklist for successful content monetization
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 and 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.