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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!

This is not some anecdotal evidence. We have seen this happen across dozens of media sites with very few exceptions. Small, big, daily, weekly, popular, niche; all follow the same pattern. So let’s plug this new information into the example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.02.28
Now your target audience might be smaller than expected, but keep in mind that a paid content strategy based on this information will really target only relevant audience and impact less than 50% of your users. Isn’t it nice to know who won’t be affected by a paywall?

Our next post will take a closer look at users who are using your site based on the above example and will address the merits of a metered paywall. In the meantime you might want to take a look at our white paper on a metered paywall, available by sending us an email.