Newsletter Walls: How a French publisher is innovating to increase its subscriber base | What’s New in Publishing

“Our paywall conversion rates have increased by 40% which is impressive”

Digital publishers today face many challenges in finding new and innovative ways to build a sustainable business model. For some, this involves alternative engagement and conversion strategies that break out of the traditional box of simply blocking content with a paywall.

An example is Economic alternativesthe French print and digital news publisher that has developed a unique engagement strategy involving newsletter sign-ups and sign-up walls to increase ARPU and de-anonymize audiences.

Newsletter Wall as a soft conversion step

While a solid paywall strategy proves effective for premium publishers such as The Wall Street Journal, Economist, and Financial Times, it is not optimal for all business models because typically users need more time to engage and interact with the content before deciding whether to subscribe or not.

Economic Alternatives’ approach is to first present users with a newsletter wall, blocking content and asking them to sign up for the weekly newsletter in exchange for access to an article for free.

Instead of employing a hard wall strategy that blocks non-subscribers, this soft conversion step enables content discovery, increased engagement, and the development of strong, lasting relationships that all support subscription conversion rates. from AE.

The Economic Alternatives team was able to A/B test their Newsletter Wall on the Pool Dashboard, the solution used for all their audience conversion strategies, giving them insight into the most effective strategy for their niche audience. Through these tests, they found:

  • the wording on their call to action button impacted click-through rates on the wall, with “finish reading” proving more effective than “continue reading.” Fréderic Desiles, strategy and marketing manager at Alternatives Economiques, puts this down to the terminality of this sentence, emphasizing to users that going through it will give them access to the entire functionality.
  • Simple designs were the most effective, with minimal text, ample spacing between wall aspects, and a button color that matched the brand.
  • Without surprise, highlighting the “free” aspect of subscribing to the newsletter was a big factor in persuading users to convert, moving it from the subtitle on the wall to the title. Poool’s consulting team believes this is due to the user’s experience of paywalls which typically require payment to pass. However, as AE’s testing has proven, simple wording can change that perception and drive conversions in other forms, including newsletter sign-up.

Thanks in large part to this Newsletter Wall, Alternatives Economiques has grown from 200,000 newsletter subscribers at the end of 2020 to 360,000 today, forming habits in the lives of their users to increase engagement and ultimately encourage subscriptions. in the future.

Not only have we grown our newsletter base significantly, but we’ve also gained valuable insight into where users see value on our site.

With hundreds of articles unlocked every day via the newsletter wall, we now understand the types of content that interest our audience, informing our freemium strategy to benefit from the most “difficult” conversion steps such as registration and registration. ‘subscription.

Fréderic Désiles, Strategy and Marketing Director of Economic Alternatives

The limits of a Newsletter Wall strategy

However, as with many things, Newsletter Walls have their limitations.

First, it is impossible to track users who have already passed through the wall on a previous visit, which means that users may be presented with the wall even if they already receive the newsletter.

Second, Desiles notes that there is a large time gap between a user going through the newsletter wall and when they decide to subscribe (if at all).

So while this strategy largely succeeded in building the foundations of AE’s engagement and premium strategy, the publisher later decided to go further by integrating a Registration wall in their sweet journey of conversion.

The goal here is to convert anonymous visitors into free account holders, allowing the publisher to collect personalized reader IDs and first-party data to understand their audience, providing personalized journeys that gradually increase engagement and cause the user to subscribe at some point in the future.

Registration supports advertising and subscription revenue models by increasing engagement – ​​that is, the frequency, recency and volume of visits.

Additional ad revenue through targeting, more page views, and more ad inventory, while simultaneously increasing a user’s propensity to click through the paywall and subscribe.

Registration therefore has a direct impact on revenue – Poool’s research has found that registered members have up to 10x higher ARPU than anonymous visitors.

Stéphane Père, CRO at Pool

The next stage of the funnel

On the Alternatives Economiques site, after unlocking an article, users are again blocked on the following content by a paywall.

This strategy has been successful for the publisher in encouraging subscriptions, but the team wanted to work on improving “impulse” conversions, those where a user is both frustrated and engaged enough to decide to subscribe in the minute presented to him. the wall so they can access the content.

To achieve this goal, the team decided to embed the payment into the wall itself. Thanks to Poool’s integration with Stripe and no-code design features, the AE paywall collects all payment details before the user has even clicked, not only simplifying the process, but also reducing a step down the conversion funnel and collecting this very important information. early.

We had a hunch that the number of impulsive subscriptions could be improved, so we took action by developing this wall that enables one-click conversion.

Since implementing this strategy, our paywall conversion rates have increased by 40%.

Fréderic Désiles, Strategy and Marketing Director of Economic Alternatives

Innovation and soft conversion

Overall, even if the Newsletter Walls have their limits, they have laid the foundations of a subscription strategy on the Alternatives Economiques site, with many advantages for the publisher.

It’s also a clear example of paid innovation – integrating payment into the paywall is rarely used as a technique to increase conversion rates, but it has proven extremely beneficial for this publisher and highlights the potential gains to try something different.

Magdalene White
Content Marketing Manager, Pool

Poool is the audience conversion platform to help digital publishers take back control of their revenue by turning users into willing leads, members and subscribers. Discover Poool’s platform on its siteor his Blog for deeper insights.