In 2015, the Winnipeg Free Press became the first newspaper in North America to introduce a micro-payment plan. Unlike a standard metered paywall, this unique pay-per-view model allows readers to purchase digital content on a per-article basis. Winnipeg Free Press editor Paul Samyn provides some insight into the success of the micropayment plan in a recent blog post for INMA.
Approximately eight months after the Free Press first launched this new subscription model, the paper estimates that about 4,300 readers have purchased at least one article through the micropayment plan, and the paper is attracting approximately 40 new micropayment subscribers each week. With each article costing 27 cents, the average reader spends about $2 per month. Heavily reported feature articles and long-form investigative stories tend to be the most popular content purchased through this payment plan.
“The flexibility provided by our paid option has enabled an almost commitment-less option for our readers. It lowers the height of the paywall and monetizes audiences who would otherwise leave,” explains Free Press vice president for digital content Christian Panson.
The Manitoba daily has also attracted about 4,000 subscribers to its unlimited digital access plan, which costs $16.99 a month. More than 15% of the micropayment users have been successfully converted into full subscribers. Furthermore, about 30% of the all-access digital subscribers opt to receive the Saturday paper.
“Newspapers need to stop thinking there is some silver bullet that will solve the challenges facing our industry,’’ says Free Press Publisher Bob Cox. “Rather we need to look at a variety of approaches to secure our future success. Micropayments are but one example of the innovations the Free Press is pursuing to that end.”