Making paywalls work: keep your readers and advertisers happy
Over the past year publications including The Times, Sunday Times and The Economist have adopted paywall business models that require readers to pay for online content.
Depending on who you speak to, it will either work or it won’t. As the debate rages on and publishers try figure out the best model for their business, the web infrastructure across the globe is improving and it is affecting online news distribution.
Thanks to advances in web, marketing and publishing technology there are positive implications for publishers: – they can supply news to online readers at a faster pace and with more depth and creativity. The same applies to advertising that is served and measured across publications’ websites.
However, as technology improves, so do end user expectations. Take a look at the Google landing page. It is light, loads quickly and has become the benchmark for many peoples’ experience of websites. This raises challenges for online publications: they need to deliver their stories (and advertising) as fast as Google does, or their closest competitors in order to remain competitive.
To illustrate the point, Aberdeen Group, found one-second delays in response time can reduce web conversions by seven percent. What this means for media site owners is that if users try and log in to their websites to read the latest news but can’t, not only will it irritate them, but there is a chance it will negatively affect the readers’ experience of the brand, and could force them to source their online news elsewhere.
Why web performance matters for publishers
While publishers develop their paid-content strategies, the delivery element of that content to the reader is critical: is it always available regardless of how the reader is accessing the website?
To do this well, publishers need to take into account where readers are based, which Internet browsers are likely to be used, what devices are being used, how fast their broadband connection is, as well as its load capability – how many visitors will it take before the site crashes?
Sell more inventory and protect ad revenues
Poor website performance can also affect online advertising performance which in turn affects overall website performance. So the question publishers need to ask is: how can I best position myself as an ideal partner to advertisers, sell more inventory and ultimately, increase ad revenues?
The answer lies, in part, in performance – specifically the speed and availability of your site. If your website doesn’t display an ad correctly to all your readers – regardless of how they are accessing the site – how can a publisher expect an advertiser to pay for online ad space?
Multiple factors at play
Today publishers have to consider everything that end-users experience when visiting their website. Most websites are really “composites” that include calls to external ad servers and ad exchanges, news tickers, and web analytics engines.
Even core web applications are no longer completely served from an internal IT infrastructure. Many of the most important actions users access may depend on scripts that are no longer tethered to page requests but are a subpart of a page that may be delivered from a data centre by a third party. Even the performance of third parties needs to be tested as these can affect performance.
If publishers make content hard to access, difficult to view and generally create a poor online environment, readers won’t pay and advertisers will go elsewhere. The only way to know for sure how your website is performing is to test and monitor continuously.
An effective web performance management strategy will help publishers identify the aspects of their website that are causing performance bottlenecks and negatively impacting their readers’ and advertisers’ experience of their website.