A successful reader revenue strategy isn’t just about a paywall or a donation ask, it’s keeping your business model aligned with your audience’s needs.

Just days prior to the announcement of its acquisition by G/O Media, Quartz announced that it was dismantling the paywall that it deployed in 2019 and which helped convert 25,000 readers to paid members.

While paywalls and meters were once the default approach for building digital subscriptions and reader revenues, publishers today (including BlueLena clients) are finding success with a variety of models that do not involve restricting access to content whatsoever.

Digiday examines this trend in a story published in late April by Sara Guaglione (“Publishers seek reader payments without the pressure of a paywall.”)

Brian Morrissey goes even deeper in his excellent newsletter, The Rebooting
(“Rethinking paywalls. Subscriptions aren’t a business model.”)

Many publishers still wrestle with the strategic imperative to build long-term sustainable reader revenues against the importance of serving the public interest through their reporting — particularly among underserved, marginalized and economically-disadvantaged communities.

The Springfield Daily Citizen has launched with a voluntary membership program in preparation for a metered site launch this summer.

Our performance benchmarking suggests there is opportunity across all reader revenue models, regardless of access controls. Our audience survey data compiled across dozens of markets affirms that readers tend to support media and other organizations that “offer the world something that should exist.” Reframed as a question, this is something every news organization should ask itself.

What is clear to us: a reader revenue strategy isn’t a paywall or a donation ask, it’s keeping your business model aligned with your audience’s needs. We’re glad to support our publishers and their vast diversity of models — and between the camps of paywall and no paywall, we’re finding there’s a lot of middle ground to balance broad access for all, benefits to many and exclusivity for the most loyal readers.

Percentage of BlueLena clients by monetization model:

  • 58% Open Access / Donation ($104.71 ARPU)
  • 27% Open Access / Membership ($131.70 ARPU)
  • 15% Metered Access ($132.16 ARPU)