How to Monetize Your Content: Are Users Still Willing to Pay for Access

How to Monetize Your Content: Are Users Still Willing to Pay for Access

Alice just got a new office job. She was sitting at her desk, thinking that she’ll really need to start working out more now that she’ll be sedentary for half a day. Having her trusty smartphone always with her made it easy to find a popular app that has everything she'll need to organize her exercises and lead her through the process. She also thinks that with a job, she’s able to treat herself with some much-needed fun when she comes back from work. She enjoys TV shows and PC games and is very happy that she’ll be able to afford both. But it’s not all about fun. Having just started to work in a new field, Alice will need all the help she can get to build her knowledge. But why do we care about Alice's interests? Because she's exactly the user that many publishers are looking for. She falls within the delicious age group of millennials, the young decision makers, and leaders of today. With her paycheck coming in regularly, she has a healthy monthly flow of cash and is itching to spend it on things that matter to her. As a publisher with content that Alice is looking for, all you need to do is reach her in the right way!

The Importance of Building an Audience

  Alice accessed the Google play store and is looking for a perfect fitness app. Of course, she’s looking at the number of downloads and user reviews. This means that having a new app with a small number of reviews, even if they are positive, makes it very hard to build an audience. Digiday lists this as the main reason that publishers are struggling to make micropayments work. Publishers are worried that with all the free content, Generation Z will ultimately lose the habit of paying for content. In order to attract the younger audience, publishers are targeting students with campaigns and offering free access to schools to attract a new pool of users (Digiday).  

Hard Paywall

  The hardest method to pull off is the hard paywall. Users can access your content only if they pay for it. If you already built an audience, be prepared to lose a large part of them once you start introducing this change. It’s important to be honest with the users and let them know in advance about the change. It’s also important to look at the long-term potential. The reason the Times of London is able to make its hard paywall work is because it was one of the top sellers in print. Even so, in order to expand its audience, it needed to experiment with its paywall funnel (Digiday). Offering two free articles a week in exchange for subscription is not a lot to give when reaching new users. However, this method is almost impossible to accomplish for new publishers that have no familiar audience to start with.  

Metered Access and Micropayments

  With metered access, the publisher is giving partial access to the content, while holding some of it back. This way you’re able to show users what you’re offering, without giving all of the value for free. The New York Times online publication uses this method successfully. The visitors can access 10 articles a month for free before being asked to subscribe for full access.   Even though this method lost some of its popularity, micropayments also boast many success stories. North American newspaper Free Press used to charge just 27 cents per article and made about 8,000 dollars a month from the micropayments (Medium). However, the process is often too much of a hassle for users, as they had to go through all the steps of sign up/filling their car details for a payment under $1 (Medium).  


  Freemium is the most popular payment method for smaller publishers. For example, eMarketer allows users to access the articles and data partially for free, but to gain access to a complete article, they need to subscribe to one of the eMarketer Pro plans.   Going back to Google Play, a lot of apps will give a user free access to a subset of the full feature list for free. A fitness app will let Alice access to one exercise plan, track her daily progress, give her free general health advice, but if she wants to have a customized exercise plan along with custom coach lifestyle advice, she’ll have to upgrade her subscription level to access it.  

Importance of Free Trial and Ad-Free Experience

  No matter which model fits a publisher, it’s vital to give users a free trial option. It’s the best way to build an honest relationship because it provides the audience an opportunity to discover the value and then decide whether or not they’re willing to pay for it. Netflix offers a one-month free trial. To access content, a user needs to fill out the payment method details. Once the free month is over, Alice will already be hooked to the content and will continue paying for it on a monthly basis.   This also works great for Udemy courses that offer free access to beginner courses. Once a user passes the beginner course, if they liked it, they can pay for the advanced one.   One of the main reasons mobile users are ready to pay for content is the ad-free experience. Over the past few months,  Salon Media Group and Gannett have begun offering ad-free versions of their mobile apps to subscribers (Digiday). If you think about it, it’s a free tradeoff – if users are not willing to pay, then the main way for publishers to monetize their content is advertising. However, if Alice pays the subscription to the fitness app, then she’s entitled to improved user experience without ads.  

The Age of Loot Boxes

  Gaming is currently topping both movie and music industries. The PC, Console, and Mobile gaming earned a total of $104 Billion in 2016, while music and movie industries earned a total of $54.6 Billion (Quora). So, what might not work for other publishers, flourishes in gaming. One such example is paying for cosmetics and fast progress though buying much-discussed loot boxes. Ah, loot boxes. You know, the small mystery boxes which offer various and, usually, random virtual in-game rewards to those who buy them. It’s a highly popular and controversial phenomenon. Some countries even banned loot boxes, labelling them as a type of gambling. Nevertheless, some of the most popular games today made a fortune through loot boxes and the model can be applied to various other industries as well.   Now that Alice has the means to pay and much less time, she’s more likely to pay for progress.

Free Content with Voluntary Donations

  This method is especially popular with new, smaller companies. For example, a development studio might be giving out their latest software for free. However, they give their users an option to send donations and help the team with future development. But why would they do that? Well, there are several reasons. At this point, their primary goal is to put the word out about their software and since it’s free, more users are likely to try it out giving them more exposure. By allowing voluntary donations, they also have an option to generate some additional income along the way. Under the right circumstances it’s a win-win situation. This method is highly popular among influencers as well, especially on platforms like Twitch.   Today, Alice indeed is in Wonderland that is the Internet and so many roads reach to her. You just have to take your time, analyse your product, and choose the best payment method for Alice to take the path down your conversion funnel. There’s also plenty of Alices in the sea, so make sure they’re comfortable with the method you choose as well.   Alright, enough talk, you’re ready to make a choice. Let’s keep those $$ coming in!
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