Stile over wall
Credit: Dreamer, via Wikimedia Commons
Three business to business publishers shared their experiences of introducing paywalls at today's Digital Media Strategies conference taking place in London.

They shared the challenges, with a key lesson being that starting to charge for content requires a high level of customer service, with subscribers expecting "an Amazon-grade" experience in the ease of use of the site.

Business Day, South African publisher BDFM

Business Day, a print and digital financial title, has recently launched the first metered paywall in South Africa. The BDFM-owned title has 512,000 monthly readers and a newspaper circulation of 35,000.

BDFM is part owned by Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times, and "stole shamelessly from our cousins at the FT," when making a decision about the best model to follow, Bronwen Auret from BDFM told the conference.

BDFM has recently shifted to a digital-first newsroom which operates 18 hours a day. Auret explained that mobile is key as South Africa has very low penetration of fixed broadband, but has been quick to adopt mobile broadband.

The publisher used paywall technology firm Evolok to implement the payment model, which requires readers to register and provides the publisher with audience data and revenue.

"We believe our future is in digital," Auret said, explaining that digital must replace the lost print revenue.

UBM Built Environment

UBM Built Environment, which is focused on the construction, property, architecture and interiors niche, has also switched from providing free content to charging for access.

Digital audience director Phil Clark explained that they "opened a registration gate" in 2009, encouraging readers to enter their details.

Asked what the biggest hurdle is now they are charging for content, Clark said that readers expect customer service to be on a par with that provided by Apple or Amazon. He said that online access requires a level of service that print does not require.

UBM Built Environment, which also has an HTML5 web app, lowered the wall at Christmas in the knowledge people were buying and receiving tablets. Clark said the publisher saw an increase in paid subscribers as a result.

Risk, Incisive Media

Risk is a product from B2B publisher Incisive Media which covers financial risk management, regulation and derivatives news and analysis.

It charges £1,000 for an annual subscription, the same price as for print. Group publishing director Nat Knight said that when they were first experimenting with paid-for content online back in 2000 and 2001, they offered a £20 subscription deal. He said that failed as people did not pay as they saw it as a "cheap deal".

Knight agreed with Clark in that the bar has been raised by Amazon, saying readers expect the same search functionality.

His advice for other B2B publishers is to listen to readers. "The people you should really be talking to are your customers," he said.

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