OLD Media Moves

How the WSJ paywall determines how many free articles you get

May 17, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

Redesigned WSJJohn McCarthy of The Drum writes about The Wall Street Journal paywall that adapts to reader behavior and decides how many free articles you should get access to.

McCarthy writes, “The adaptive paywall sits apart from the three largely established models: freemium where content is not born equal; metered, with its arbitrary free read figure; and the hard paywall that strictly admits only subscribers. When Lewis first took charge of the group he flipped mindsets. Notably, the circulations team, then focused on print, was rebranded as the memberships team that Wells now heads up with a focus on digital consumption.

Wells said: ‘One of the biggest reasons people didn’t subscribe to the WSJ was that they could get it for free. We looked to close where people were getting sidedoor access to our content that was preventing them from paying us.’

“This included Google’s First Click Free, which allowed access to all content regardless of the presence of any paywall – the publication was a major critic of this approach. It pulled out of the scheme and traffic from Google was immediately down by 38%, while Google News referrals also fell by 89% in August 2017 year on year. But the revolt worked, as Google ended the scheme entirely last year and opened up flexible sampling controlled by each publication instead.

“Over the last few years, the WSJ has operated a deliberately leaky paywall that has served as a sandbox of data collection and subscription sale experiments. Reader subscription intent is measured on three levels, as Wells said: ‘They are cold, warm and hot, like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin.'”

Read more here.

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