Text written by Lorena Hure @lorenahure
Paying for access to digital content is nothing new for users; the popularity of Netflix and Spotify has paved the way in that regard. What is a novelty is that Argentine newspaper Clarín has joined the bandwagon, spearheading a trend that will surely be joined by other media in that country and the region. How does this news impact users, advertisers, and the media outlet itself? In this article, I share my experiences as a user, written from the point of view of a digital world insider.
I still remember that day. It was a Sunday in May of this year. I began my day with my usual digital media rounds, a ritual that begins with Facebook, followed by reading Clarín and La Nación, and ending with LinkedIn. In that order.
To my great surprise, Clarín did not allow me to access its content (or rather, it would have, had I be willing to pay for it). What a shock. Right away, I wrote to Portada’s editorial team to give them the scoop, only to be told they had already published this news a month earlier (click on it for a link to the article).
“How behind I am,” I thought. “In the end, I am still one more user,” I consoled myself. Thousands of (professionally subjective) questions suddenly flooded over me like a tsunami. Since I am naturally curious, I decided to contact Pitu (Gabriela Pinto), a dear colleague and friend who was in charge of executing this project, via an informal Facebook message.
(Here is the conversation/interview we conducted via email.)
Why did you implement the paywall now?
The person who can best explain why we launched digital subscriptions is Ricardo Kirschbaum. The transformation in how media content is accessed has been constant and forced us to adhere to the changes in the industry, where the paid subscription model is used to support a commitment to quality journalism (which requires a major investment of economic and professional resources). And this requires a mixed model of advertising revenue and paid a subscription to support it. It means joining the trend followed by major international news sites such as NYT, Washington Post, Folha de Sao Paulo, and O’Globo (among others), whose audiences recognize the value of quality journalism. Plus, here is another bit of international data: 78% of newspapers with the highest circulation have some kind of paywall model.
What percentage of Clarín’s regular users signed up for a paid digital subscription?
We opted for a “porous” subscription system; therefore the impact is on Clarín’s most faithful users. You have to read a lot to need to sign up for a subscription.
How does it work?
The Home page still offers complete free access, as do the cover pages of each section and services. In addition, you can access 10 articles per month for free. Once the 10 articles have been accessed, the user can easily register for free to access an additional 30 articles per month. That is a total of 40 free monthly articles. One thing to note: the 40 free articles a month available to each user are NOT cumulative across devices. That is, you have access to 40 articles on your desktop, 40 articles on your mobile, 40 articles on a tablet, and 40 articles through the native app. That’s a lot of content! The article count resets every month. Each calendar month begins with zero articles read. The impact on our total audience is small because it only affects the sites heaviest readers. In addition, subscribers to the print edition will continue to have unlimited access to all content from any device.
What was the impact on the number of monthly users and other metrics related to site visits?
Regarding the numbers, we were able to verify in a few weeks (we launched on April 24th) that our readers support the paid subscription model. Projections indicate that in just one month we approached the goal set for an entire year. We are very satisfied with the results!
Will subscribers continue to see ads? Or is one of the benefits of paid content not receiving any more advertising? (For example, like with a paid Spotify subscription.)
Both users and paid subscribers see the same advertisements.
What was the impact on advertisers?
For advertisers, the role of digital subscriptions in advertising is a benefit, as it gives them the possibility of audience segmentation and personalization. It opens a new space not yet explored for the sale of digital advertising space.
Thanks for your support, Pitu! If I ever write a book on the history of digital media in LatAm, I will mark April 24, 2017 as one of the milestones in the timeline. And give you credit for it, obviously.