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Lessons in paid content II: The size of your audience

Feb 09, 2016

This is another in a series of 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 I: Not all content is created equal
Lessons in Paid Content III: Don’t just slap a meter on it
To read all of Roman’s articles please click here.

If you ever look at your Google Analytics or get a report from a colleague, you might be familiar with the number of monthly unique users your title has. If you decide to monetize content on your site with something other than just plain old advertising, you might wonder how many users a paywall would reach. While there are users who pay for the convenience of never having to encounter a paywall, most people will have to be prompted to pay.

Imagine then your Google Analytics shows 2M monthly unique visitors; how many of them can you monetize? First though, factor in Google’s routine overestimation of unique visitors. Why? Because Google Analytics is oriented around visits and cookies for unique user identification, they do not identify unique browsers. Google isn’t really telling you the truth about unique users visiting your site because one user can visit on a variety of different browsers or devices. What this really means is Google Analytics is overestimating site visitors by up to 50%! Here’s an illustration:

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.00.52
After correcting this overestimation, there are still at least 1M unique visitors, which is not that bad, right? Naturally it seems perfectly logical that for paid content to work, only those users who actually read articles are going to pay, right? No surprises here, but – make sure you are sitting down and take a deep breath because here it comes:

For most media, at least 50% of their users do not read any articles weekly or monthly! Keep reading

Algorithms, automated content optimisation are key to publisher competitiveness

Feb 08, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 12.04.29

Chuck Blevins, the manager of new platform development and technology for the audience department at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta writes about the importance of hitting your audience at the right time with the right content. Piano VX software has an algorithmic paywall function that helps monetize your most popular content at the right time, turning users into subscribers. Get in touch with us if you want to learn more: [email protected]

Continue reading…

Industry Insights: Closing the Google Loophole

Feb 04, 2016
Industry trends

The WSJ closes the loophole from Google that allows people to view up to five articles daily from the search engine for free in spite of having an “opaque” paywall. And the EU and the US have reached another data safe harbor agreement pending approval by all 28 EU member states. That’s pretty big news for companies that do a lot of business back and forth across the Atlantic.

Read more about what publishers are discovering  in this week’s Industry Insights, available now!

Prevention Announces Plans to Go Advertising-Free With Print Edition

Feb 03, 2016
Industry trends

Rodale, prevention, piano SaaS
By Greg Dool, Folio

A shift at Prevention comes at a time of cost-cutting and reorganization for Rodale.

The health and wellness magazine will debut a completely ad-free print edition starting with the July issue, publisher Rodale Inc. announced today. The move will coincide with a strategic shift in Prevention’s editorial focus to address what chairman and CEO Maria Rodale calls an “increasingly complex healthcare landscape,” while still maintaining the health and wellness advice that has been the brand’s focus for decades.

Both the cover price and annual subscription prices will be rising. Continue reading…

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

Feb 02, 2016

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.


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.