Get Past the Paywall: Personalize Engagement to Reach Users

Reach and engagement capture and retain audiences, but personalization amplifies engagement. Personalization demonstrates to users that you not only understand their needs, but that you’ll go above and beyond to provide the experience they expect from your publication.

There’s an old saying about consumer behavior, which stipulates that “people buy from other people, not from businesses.” It’s why consumers respond to brands with clear identities built around a core of shared values. Translated to the media and publication space, people respond to content that’s intriguing, and that’s in line with their own tastes and expectations.

That’s why subscription businesses in the publishing space succeed when they personalize and optimize their content for individual users. When publishers create customized experiences from the first touchpoint on the journey to the paywall, and thereafter, they build trust and authority with end users. Personalization demonstrates a commitment to build that trust, and encourages users to build and maintain long-term subscription relationships with the publication.

Most visitors don’t engage so give the right ones a reason

Piano’s benchmark data shows that, on average, 68% of first-time website visitors do not engage with the content. What the data shows is that, in any given month, there’s a sizable amount of your visitors who will abandon the experience altogether. There are many reasons to explain this lack of engagement, but the common denominator is that there are always going to be visitors who are simply not the right fit for your publication.

All that being said, there are a number of high-quality users who do engage with your website. Those are the users with the greatest lifetime value potential. They’re the ones who you need to connect with on their first visit so that they’re motivated to return and engage again.

How can you make them engage? Remember, as the saying goes, “people buy from other people.” Demonstrate that your publication produces high-quality content tailored to the interests of those high-value users so that they recognize a personalized content experience with your brand. Show them why they should trust your content and give them a reason to come back for more.

Create audience segments and experiences for those segments

Savvy publishers create audience segments based on user behavioral data. These segments bucket your website traffic into groups that you can apply to out-of-the-box experience templates that you can label as:

  • Potential subscribers
  • High-value subscribers
  • Passive subscribers
  • At-risk subscribers


You can apply your own branding to the labels, but treat each of the categories as follows.

Potential subscribers are people who have yet to go beyond the paywall, but they do have the possibility to become loyal users. You need to monitor their onsite behavior to deploy the types of content that will increase their interest in your publication, and then deliver the right pricing options that will motivate them to cross the threshold towards a full subscription.

High-value subscribers are your most loyal and active users. They spend the most time onsite, and they’re most likely to advocate for your publication to their own networks and followers. Everything delivered onsite to these users should be highly personalized to their unique interests.

Passive subscribers have gone beyond the paywall and subscribed to your publication. But they aren’t regular consumers of your content and, when they do arrive, they don’t spend as much time on-site as active users. You need to re-engage with these users using personalized email or marketing campaigns to bring them back into the fold.

At-risk subscribers are either current or soon-to-be subscribers that you’ve determined are most likely to passively churn or actively cancel their subscriptions. Depending on your current subscription base, and the technology available to your team, you need to determine how best to re-engage and personalize content for these users to keep them in the fold.

Use data and technology to deploy experiences for each segment

Once you’ve created your segments, you need to monitor the data and deploy content to your website using technology that enables personalized optimization in real-time. When data indicates that a passive or potential subscriber is currently onsite, and you want to convert them into an active user, you must confidently react. You need the ability to adapt and make changes to how content is presented on-site so that those users are motivated to stick around for another article or two, and help validate their affinity for your product.

That’s why solutions like Piano, which is an end-to-end subscription commerce platform that personalizes content experiences before and after the paywall, are so valuable to publishers. You can personalize what users experience as new or recurring visitors all the way through the journey to the most active and loyal subscribers using exclusive data and solutions designed to drive engagement and boost conversions.

Personalization is essential to success, and content must be personalized throughout the entire subscription journey if you want to convert more users into loyal subscribers. Show your users that you understand them; that you’re built for them, and that they will always have access to high-quality content by continuing to engage with your publication.

To get started with Piano and the easy-to-use experience that helps turn every action into a stroke of genius, contact your Account Manager or request a demo today.