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Lessons in paid content I: Not all content is created equal

Feb 02, 2016
Analytics

We continue to repost articles from Piano’s Lead Data Scientist Roman Gavuliak that were written last year and are being re-posted here for the edification of our faithful readers.

Lessons in Paid Content II: The size of your audience
Lessons in Paid Content III: Don’t just slap a meter on it
To read all of Roman’s articles please click here.

I have recently (2014) had the opportunity to give a “Lessons in paid content” talk for Piano. The point of the presentation was to show publishers how they might think about paid content models based on our experience illustrated by graphs and numbers. This blogpost series will explain different points from the presentation. We hope it will make you think about the content on your site in a different way.

Let me first give a little background on where these lessons come from. Piano has implemented 80+ paywall and the number of analyses we have done has climbed to almost 120. This unique learning experience has allowed us to create benchmarks tailored specifically for paid content. Each analysis uses three main sources of data and information:

– Access to Google Analytics or its equivalents (such as SiteCatalyst)
– Our own data collection through a tool called Piano Bar
– Interviews with the staff responsible for online content

The first two sources allow for a quantitative perspective, yet we believe that not every notion is always reflected by the data and a qualitative aspect is necessary as well, so we have been asking a lot of questions. Naturally the publishers do too. Here are their  three most common questions:

– Is there someone like me?
– I have 2M uniques, how much money can I make?
– Will users pay for my content?

The core components of every online title are people and content and their interactions. While this may seem like the most obvious thing, it is always worth mentioning, since the online publishing seems to have a dependence on advertising and the industry has  become overly focused on pageviews. So here’s something else to think about:

“What do I need to know about my users and content in order to monetize effectively?”

We hope that by the end of this blog post series, these questions will be answered, but perhaps more will arise.

LET’S TALK CONTENT

No site is made up of homogeneous content, they all contain different kinds of different content categorized in different ways. Think about it as sections for instance, sports, news, business, entertainment. Another way to segment the site might be based upon content format – video, audio, slideshow or simple articles.The most obvious way to compare the different content categories is through traffic volumes. By looking only at this though, a lot of other relevant dimensions get missed including perhaps, the most crucial, user loyalty. Illustrated through numbers the graph below represents a sample of 50 sections from a German daily newspaper. They are ordered by their traffic (blue line, primary y-axis), on the left are the sections with the highest traffic, to the right, lowest traffic. The red line represents the volume of loyal users in these sections (ranked by a secondary Y-axis).

visitors vs. pageviews graph

visitors vs. pageviews graph

While there is a relationship between the number of unique users and the size of the loyal audience, there is certainly a great variation in this relationship. When looking at the two highlighted sections, the first section has twice the volume of unique visitors but almost four  times fewer loyal visitors. Section 2 is a more niche than Section 1 and subsequently may not be a good choice for locking. Section 1 is similar to an article that was shared on Facebook and attracted a lot of one-time visitors over a longer time period.

Not all content is created equal – use that knowledge to your advantage when monetizing it. Identifying sections that have low potential in terms of loyal visitors yet account for a substantial volume of page views can let you fine tune your paywall in terms of user impact and reducing risk of pageview loss.