What metrics do you use to measure the success of a newspaper web site switching to a paid content model? Specifically, I’m thinking about how will Stephens Media know if their switch to a paid content model for the Pine Bluff Commercial? Here’s the metrics I think a site switching to a paid content model would have to use.
- Paid Subscribers both online and in print – To justify paid content model you must show an increase in print newspaper subscriptions because the reason you switched to a paid model was to stop the cannibalization of your print subscribers by your free online site. Of course most studies show that the revenue generated from paid online subscribers will barely cover the cost of running the website.
- Web Site Visitors – Nope. You can keep measuring your web site visitors if you want to, but the dropoff from when it was free will be so discouraging you might change your mind and open it up again.
- Web Display Ad Revenue – Strike Two. Won’t work. You just killed your audience with the paid wall. Any advertiser who runs on your site behind the pay wall doesn’t know what they’re doing.
- Online Classified Revenue – Strike Three. This isn’t working for many newspapers anymore, but if you’ve killed your audience then who will pay to get their classifieds seen online by nobody.
So, the only real workable metric is an increase in paid print subscribers. That’s right a continual increase. If you only slow your decrease, then you’ve just slowed the print newspaper death spiral and given yourself another year or two until the presses stop running.