Paywalls are the future. While the industry is still dabbling with the best formula — set amount of free articles versus full subscription — the paywall trend is on the rise as top publications fight against social media traffic, the collapse of ad revenue and the cannibalism of reporters’ beats along with industry layoffs.
Furthermore, paywalls exist for a reason. Readers are interested in the quality of the reporting, brand equity, tier-1 stature of the outlet, and even the power of individual journalists who possess significant social media followings.
In 2019, 76% of US newspapers published online had some form of paywall in place, up 60% compared to two years prior. In late 2019, Fortune reported Condé Nast publications joined the ranks of reputable brands like Wall Street Journal and Insider by pivoting to a full paywall model.
However, the pandemic caused many organizations to cease their paywall structure to provide necessary information to a larger audience during a tumultuous time. Now, we’re seeing the re-emergence of the paywall initiative: In February 2021, Time announced plans to erect its paywall, and in April 2021, Reuters announced its decision to restrict all of its online publications.
Simply, paywalls help publications survive, so SaaS marketing and PR teams need to figure out how to work within this reality. You can share coverage behind a paywall to help amplify your earned media mentions, but, understandably, there is concern around more tangible benefits.
Instead of investing in ways to bypass a paywall or using tricks like incognito browsers, embrace what it can mean for the industry. Besides earning coverage in front of a highly engaged audience actively seeking news shared by that specific publication, paywalls allow for dedicated reporters and a potential increase in quality.
We’ve recently reported on paywall coverage in the past couple of quarters and have found the squeeze is worth the juice.
Coverage Behind a Paywall Results
- Logi Analytics’ piece of contributed content, “It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools” in TechCrunch, drove 270 users, including 260 new users, generating a total of 292 sessions from March 19 – March 31, 2021.
- In Q4 2020, BLAST secured placement for a byline by the CTO of Cheetah Digital on the downfall of adtech in TechCrunch. Thus far, the coverage has directly resulted in 131 users on the Cheetah site, holding 165 sessions. Despite running in November, it was the 11th highest referral source for the Cheetah website in the quarter.
- In Q1 2021, Phenom People received coverage for its funding announcement in gated publications such as Bloomberg and Insider. Between April 7-14, organic traffic was up 45% and referral traffic was up 291% compared to the same time last year.
- 6sense earned coverage in top-tier and trade gated sites such as Fortune and Reuters for its Series D funding announcement. From March 30 – April 6, 2021, 6sense saw 22 sessions from referral traffic. Additionally, compared to the same time last year, 6sense saw a 260% increase in direct traffic and 133% increase in organic search.
We’ll continue to closely monitor the effect of paywalls on coverage as the trend continues, but don’t shy away from opportunities like submitting bylines to TechCrunch ExtraCrunch or offering embargoed news to Bloomberg.
This much is clear: coverage living behind a paywall does not mean the effort was wasted or the article will fall on blind eyes and deaf ears. It just means we need to measure coverage quality differently and assess its impact.
If you want to learn more about how SaaS PR agencies manage paywalls, see this Forbes article in defense of paywalls or contact BLASTmedia to chat.