As media publications look for new ways to monetise their content, more publications are turning to paywalls. We spoke to Yvette Dimiri, head of subscription growth at Stears Business about how the media publication monetised its content and what type of content goes behind a paywall.

What type of paywalls does your publication use and why did you choose this specific paywall? 

In 2020, when we started the subscription journey, we started with a variation of a hard paywall. We subsequently introduced a hybrid paywall which means most content is still behind a paywall but every week we choose the one article that will be available to registered users. We pivoted because we wanted to improve our reach and improve the ability of customers to know what we had to offer. There are of course many ways we could have chosen to accomplish that ability to see what is on the other side of the wall, but we felt this approach was well suited to our stage and scale.

What is the process of implementing a paywall?

Well, I’ll describe how we did it:

a) Understand your customers: who are they and what is their income level? Why do they come to you

b) Double down on that value proposition, invest in our analysts

c) Evaluate available payment infrastructure (do your best here, you will encounter more issues once you start)

d) Map out user stories

e) Scope out the engineering work required

f) Conduct prototype testing. You want to make sure your readers can successfully navigate the new product and reading environment

g) Determine metrics for success

h) Build and launch

i) Measure outcomes on an ongoing basis

j) Encounter issues and opportunities and prioritize what to work on

How do you introduce a paywall without losing your readers/audience? 

Introducing a paywall will test your resolve to pursue consumer revenue. You will lose readers, who will get tired of hitting a paywall. Not everyone will pay. You must have a sense of who your target customer is.

Has the introduction of paywalls helped with increasing revenue? 

In our case yes. And even if revenue doesn’t come as quickly as you would’ve hoped initially, a paywall helps you keep your focus on your reader or subscriber, which can have positive benefits in the long run. In that sense, a paywall is a good forcing function.

Do you think that more publications will be using paywalls? And do you think paywalls will kill journalism?

I think paywalls will probably save journalism, especially on the continent. A paywall is not the only source of reader revenue but I do think many publishers will try. But the introduction of a paywall changes your business and organisation in a way that most publishers aren’t ready for, can’t afford, or can’t stomach.

Is all your content behind a paywall or do you only put select stories behind a paywall?

Four out of five articles we publish weekly are behind a paywall.

Do you see more readers paying for news on the continent or will people still be resistant?

I certainly hope so, but it is difficult to ignore the global economic context. It’s even worse for paywalls in Africa. I was just reading a report that suggests that 30% of subscribers intend to cancel at least one publication in the coming year. This is not insignificant.

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