Credit: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

How do you get readers to pay? Good question.

Have you tried not asking them to pay upfront?

This is the thinking of The Audiencers, a b2b publication owned by the subscription suite Poool. It prioritises getting readers to sign up for its newsletter which now has 2.5k subscribers. From there, they can build habit and loyalty, to the point of converting them into customers and clients.

Free and premium divide

The website publishes two main types of content. Free articles are written by external contributors working in the publishing industry, such as this one by Khalil Cassimally from The Conversation. These articles talk about the best practices of other publications and readers can view them without ever being asked to pay.

The premium articles are written by editorial team members. The first article is on the house, but upon reading the second article, the reader is blocked by a newsletter wall. All they need to do is part with their email address to get continued access.

It is a low commitment and standard expectation amongst internet users, says The Audiencers' editor-in-chief Madeleine White speaking on the podcast.

The team tested blocking on the first editorial article, but found blocking the second yielded much stronger conversion figures. Currently, the publication converts a quarter of its readers on average every month.

The Audiencer's newsletter wall

"Succeeding in conversion is all about balancing frustration and engagement," she says.

Read more: Balancing audience frustration and engagement

Grabbing testimonies

Eagle-eyed readers will also notice a testimony on the registration wall from an anonymous employee of The Washington Post.

Anyone who signs up to the newsletter is manually tracked down by White and her colleagues, and then added on LinkedIn. There, they hope to start a conversation about the website, its features, any interesting internal strategies in the works, potential contributions to the website, and if they are happy to supply testimonies.

In August, when they added that testimony, conversions grew to 31 per cent - higher than the 25 per cent average.

There is always the option of swapping out the testimony for the author's headshots for a more human appeal.

Limited time offers

One of the inspirations for the newsletter wall is French publisher Le Journal du Dimanche, which operates under a similar model. "Free" articles ask readers to sign up for the newsletter, whilst "premium" articles ask readers to pay.

The publication has in the past experimented with timed subscription offers along with a countdown until it expires. It integrated a payment solution straight into the paywall to catch readers who wanted to sign up there and then. It increased conversions by 40 per cent by doing this.

Updating the call to action

In advertising, there is the well-known term 'advert blindness'. The same is true in the world of subscriptions. The same subscription pitch can get stale and conversions can start to dip.

To prevent this, The Audiencers is constantly updating its design and adapting it. White says she has noticed some titles adapting their message for seasons, national holidays, Black Friday sales, local elections and so on. She puts a date in her diary to remind her to do this every now and again - it only takes her five minutes.

Read more: What gets readers to pay? Transparency on the price of journalism

Exclusive articles

One of the more recent moves has been producing exclusive content for Poool clients, the parent company of The Audiencers.

The Audiencers is in a unique situation where it needs to get readers through the funnel of taking out newsletters and then hope they will evolve into Poool clients.

The publication also started producing benchmark reports - the best insights from the last quarter just for clients. The goal here is retention, not acquisition.

This is a bold new approach to wall off non-clients, but White says that there is an honesty to this approach: The Audiencers is a publication like any other that needs to monetise content and services.

Continue the discussion at our next Newsrewired discussion on 15 November at Reuters HQ in London. We will discuss how to make subscription pitches more effective to encourage readers to pay. Grab your ticket now

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).