Emap: Return of paywalls pushed up subs by 25%

The reintroduction of paywalls across Emap’s websites helped push subscriptions for its business titles up by a quarter, the company’s director of media said today.

Conor Dignam said a number of Emap brands with subscription renewal rates of around 50 per cent jumped to around 70 per cent as a result of the move.

The change in late 2009 reversed a decision taken in 2008 to make all Emap’s business to busness websites free-to-access.

Dignam told the Paywalls Strategies Conference that free sites helped showcase digital content, grow audience and improve the skills of Emap’s 200 journalists but ad rate growth was not sufficient to offset the decline in subs as readers switched to reading online.

The reintroduction of paywalls was accompanied by a number of ways to continue to showcase content and encourage further growth, he added.

Emap now uses Google’s First Click service to allow web users access to five stories each month for free and to promote content through RSS and newsletters.

Eighty per cent of subscribers to Emap’s 50-year-old television trade title Broadcast had activatived their digital accounts, he said, and the company’s internal customer satisfaction index showed improvements of 20 per cent for that brand.

Broadcast had a 70 per cent renewal rate for subscriptions, Dignam said, and Emap now used registration to drive subscriptions to the brand where online premium content could be accessed.

Broadcast launched its online Commissioning Index two years ago as a premium product for its subscribers, he said. It now details around 3,000 shows and 300 commissioners across the TV industry and is used by 40 per cent of subscribers – he said.

However, Dignam said the Broadcast model was not appropriate for all titles.

Emap’s Nursing Times title gave away far more content for free as it suited the needs of the market, he added, while the readership of its Screen International title required a digital first strategy which led Emap to turn the weekly print product into a monthly and focus daily output online.

The monthly version of Screen International, he said, generated the same ad revenue as four weekly magazines and led to a ‘significant cost saving”.

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