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Lessons in Paid Content IV: Making sense out of it all

Mar 01, 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 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.

Throughout this series, there have been a lot of numbers and graphs illustrating particular examples that might be more or less relatable. The understanding is that as a publisher, you do not always have the capacity to carry out all these calculations and some data sources might not be available to you. Most probably you lack a database needed to benchmark against other publishers / titles. What you can do, though, is compare different content segments of your site against each other. Here is a simple framework of how to think about your content:

The graph depicts content segmented into two dimensions – loyalty and content consumption. Niche content with a small yet loyal audience is more suited for a hard paywall; flagship content that has high user traffic that remains loyal would do well under a metered paywall. Content with lots of traffic consisting of one-time visitors – search engine and social media traffic – is a space that can be commodified; it’s ideal for advertising. Content with no traffic and no loyalty, “thrash,” is obviously something you do not want on your site.

This framework is not applicable only to paid content, it can be used with all content in general. Having a section that, in terms of the above two dimensions, is considered thrash, leaves you with the question: where you would like it to be? Obviously all content can not just magically be transformed into flagship content. Would it be better to build it into a section dedicated to a smaller but more specific and loyal audience (niche) or perhaps, transformed with more general headlines and splashier news that would attract a lot of one-time visitors (commodity)? The upshot is you can apply this simple model to thinking about all sections, authors and content types (slideshows, videos, etc.).

In the first post in this series, three of the most common questions publishers asked were listed. With the information shared in this post, the answers should be apparent, but it’s always better to check:

Is there someone like me?

When publishers ask this question, they think in the terms of, “daily newspaper, 2 million uniques,” or  “niche title with 50k uniques,” or “a site dedicated to authentic video content.” The truth is….. there is no one exactly like you. You are unique and that’s great, because it means you have content others don’t. When Piano thinks about similarities, we look at your users and content and benchmark them against the behavior of other users already in our system.

I have 2M uniques, how much money can I make?

Most of your visitors are not your target audience when it comes to paid content. In the end you might impact less than 10% of all your users.

Will users pay for my content?

The right users will pay for the right content.

This concludes our blog post series titled “Lessons in Paid Content.” Hopefully it gives you a better understanding not only of paid content but of content in general. If it managed to catch your attention, stay tuned.