The trend of online news media going behind a paywall with the instance of BQ Blue
With growing internet penetration, dimensions of the internet have clearly expanded. The perception of information is getting questioned more frequently and the need to get quality content has intensified. While accessibility has increased, in parallel the search for authenticity has grown; there are some impressive shifts seen on media platforms.ms.
India has the second-largest netizen count wherein content consumption patterns are more dependent on free data. This not only restricts the quality of journalism but also the broader representation of reality. This is where having a price tag comes into play. On one hand, free access to all information means that a large amount of unverified and uncertified content becomes available, which could often be misleading. On the other hand one problem with paid news is that an advertiser’s pressure could influence the editorial work. So can a paywall be a balanced solution to both of the above problems?
Ankit Dikshit, Head of Product and Subscriptions of Bloomberg Quint, sheds some light on it.
What made BQ take the decision of going behind a paywall?
We’ve always believed in quality journalism and we had faith in our premium stories. The paywall only helps us keep the advertiser’s pressure at bay while focusing our effort on providing well-researched information to our readers. The paywall helps bring in new channels of revenue. This increases the revenue received per subscriber.
Since we depend on the subscription revenue, we push for better research and more in-depth work on every story. You can always entertain and engage the readers in the right way to ensure that they have a reason to subscribe for the premium quality stories, BQ blue does a good job at it.
What were some of the challenges BQ faced, prior and post to the implementation of paywall?
When you charge for content online, there is a very predictable decrease in your site traffic. BQ expected this and the numbers we saw post paywall did not come across as a surprise. We let our readers access 5 free stories every month. We visualize a lot of data, we gave out offers but ultimately what lured our readers in was the quality of our stories; this has given us a loyal subscriber base. As a company, we experimented with this business plan, and it worked!
What are some of the prominent changes you’ve observed with regard to the type of content published in BQ in comparison to others?
How BQ stands out is the depth of content it provides. These aren’t stories that are sold, they’re earned. We believe that a good story is a result of quality research and we provide in-depth stories. We also hold the advantage of being on the BQ terminal, which allows us to know key insights and trends and get our focus right.
For any publisher going on the digital front, who isn't sure how to go behind a paywall, a thought to keep in mind is
“It is a game of small experiments, taking the right decision and then scaling it up. Experiment is key.” - Ankit Dikshit, Head of Product and Subscriptions, Bloomberg Quint
BloombergQuint became one of India’s first news and video offering platforms to go behind a paywall. With visual and written content that is specialised for audience consumption, they set out the trend in the digital space. They established their brand with a dedicated network of writers who bring out stories that are investigative and highly driven to disseminate accuracy.
How did BQ come up with the idea?
BQ Blue was an initiative that assured premium quality content. This meant that it would cease to perform in the absence of a dedicated audience base. As the trend of subscribing for content is rather new in the country, it was important to allow people to gradually lean into such a scenario.
The idea set out into the market as a ‘pay per article’ model. It allowed the readers to invest minimally and gain exposure to content that was published. Not only does it mean that you are credible to your subscribers but it also means that you are paid for your investment and quality of hard work.
One of the strategies adopted was to make people understand the benefits of a subscription. BQ Blue comes with three subscription options and this entire process is facilitated through Accesstype. This platform helps users manage their paywall, a software that is developed by Quintype, which allows users to make payments hassle-free.
Another strategy adopted by them is the use of Voucherify, which essentially helps them gain a bigger audience by the use of various discount rates.
While most online consumers suffer block created by ad clutter, a paywall system helps one to break this noise. For quality content to be reflected, one needs steady paywall management. This is achieved with the assistance of Accesstype. It helps with the monetisation of media content, while allowing distribution to be rationed across various types of audiences.
The subscriber behaviour is observed to be loyal. These users are generally dedicated consumers of well researched, quality business stories and keep in-depth knowledge of the domain. There is also a dedicated reader base for the authors.
How metered content works?
The need for easy regulation of content and payments is very crucial in such a model. So while BQ Blue allows readers to enjoy 5 free articles every month, it also comes up with exclusive stories for its subscribers, ones that have an obvious high-end quality. Through Accesstype, they maintain the individual reading count of the users, regulate their payment options and the level of access through the entire webpage.
For an Indian audience that isn’t used to consuming content which comes with the promise of authenticity in exchange of subscription rates, it is a sustainable plan.
Accesstype provides out-of-the-box integration with payment gateways. It facilitates frictionless payments, adding to the user-friendly interface.
Is news On-Demand the new trend?
While a lot of consumers online are still trying out news subscriptions, portals like BQ Blue allow readers to ease into the process by providing free articles, pay-per-article models and other reader-friendly offers. While journalism takes a leap in the right direction, a little push from subscribers can help keep the spirit going. As advertisers get away from media and stop challenging the authenticity of the news, there are higher chances of finding good quality content online without the fear of fake or altered stories.
Download the full case study here.