June 11, 2013

Washington Post Deploys Journalists and Bloggers to Market Upcoming Metered Paywall

Washington Post Deploys Journalists and Bloggers to Market Upcoming Metered Paywall

By Minal Bopaiah

Handling a digital transition can be tricky, with a botched migration spelling certain death for some legacy publications. But, on the flip side, a well-managed transition can be your best onboarding tactic for not only acquiring digital subscribers, but keeping them as well.

The Washington Post seems to be taking a page from The Day’s playbook in managing its upcoming metered paywall implementation. WashPo started with a news story in their business section on March 18,written by staff reporter Steve Mufson, announcing the paywall.

This month, The Post has issued the standard letter from the publisher, detailing how the paywall will work. On the same day, Mufson¬† wrote again about the paywall for the paper’s Business section. And so did columnist Erza Klein on the site’s WonkBlog. And the next day, Joel Achenbach cheered the Post on in a less formal blog post on his self-titled Achenblog. And most recently, Greg Sargent endorsed the paywall (and reiterated the terms of use) on his Post blog, The Plum Line.

While this may seem like overkill, what The Post is doing is actually pretty smart. In addition to a formal announcement, The Post is hitting as many site visitors as possible with targeted messaging, i.e., messages about the paywall in a voice different that the authoritarian business heads. And since many blogs have fan-like followings, The Post’s strategy is more likely to ensure that enthusiastic and loyal readers buy in to the idea of a paywall (although The Post really should be talking about their “metered access” or “digital subscriptions,” not their “paywall”).

By targeting loyal readers through the columnists, reporters and voices they like most, The Post is planting seeds for a powerful retention program — something that’s definitely needed given that the initial meter launch will likely be coupled with free offers and substantial discounts on subscriptions.

Other legacy publications looking to transition to the digital space should look to do the same. There may be some push-back from editorial. In which case, I recommend you adopt The New York Times’ position of appointing a public editor to argue the other side. When readers feel heard, they’re more likely to be loyal, even if you decide to act counter to their wishes.

Post Your Comment:

Please note:
1. Comment moderation is enabled; we do our best to approve comments quickly!
2. If you have any trouble submitting comments, please send an email to (minalb at subscriptionsiteinsider.com).