Publishers are sitting on a goldmine — secrets to monetising the archive

The word ‘archive’ conjures up images of overcrowded rooms housing a maze of documentation which can only be accessed by the most dedicated or persistent researchers. Online newspapers contain thousands of Google-searchable articles of obscure content, interesting and relevant to only a few.

It can be hard to imagine that many publishers might actually be sitting on an archive goldmine.

The important fact to remember is that a reader who searches for very specific, niche or obscure content probably has a compelling reason for doing so, and therefore has a higher likelihood of paying for it. Moreover, they are likely to be a one-time visitor — difficult to monetise through advertising, and certainly not a candidate for becoming a loyal subscriber. Publishers should be segmenting out this ‘long tail’ and monetising untapped potential far better than they can using programmatic advertising alone.

It is important to stress that we are not talking about creating a separate website just for your Archives. Your Archives are simply the news articles on your current website that are older than a certain age. Your website. Your traffic. Your customers.

Jamatto figures show that revenue from readers paying for Archives access can relatively quickly outpace revenue from programmatic advertising from those pages.

With the Jamatto archive solution running on 13 newspapers in the UK, Europe and South Africa, we’ve developed some key steps on the road to monetising archives.

Define your Archives, and keep amending. The first key is to experiment with what constitutes your Archives, and test variables over a period of time. Do your Archives consist of articles older than a year, 6 months, 3 months, one week? At one publication we started with 1% coverage of all impressions — just those articles older than 2 years. Over a 3 month period we worked up to coverage of 5% of impressions 2 weeks and older.

As the Archives threshold time becomes more recent, more readers bump into the paywall more often, and so conversions rise. Here are some results we’ve seen:

  • Articles 1 year and older drive RPMs of $2-$5
  • Articles 1 month and older drive RPMs of $2-$10
  • Articles 1 week and older drive RPMs of $5-$15
  • Revenues rise 5–10x when you treble the amount of articles covered

Experiment with your paywall. Another variable can be the type of paywall the reader is shown. For example, is the entire article blocked? Is it blurred, or does it have some text peeping through? Can you see an image or read a first paragraph of text? Reader behaviour changes considerably under different circumstances. (And in all instances, be sure to keep your paywalled content visible to Google to mop up that organic search traffic.)

Offer an opt-out. If you’d like a lower-risk option, you could introduce a ‘porous’ Archives paywall. Essentially this means that the reader is asked to pay for access to the article, but also given an option to close the paywall popup and read the content anyway. This approach offers a non-compulsory appeal to the reader to contribute to the publication in question.

Play with ‘Archives’ vs ‘Premium’. Once you have defined your Archives paywall, can can now tweak that paywall to consider more valuable ‘Premium’ content. It can be lucrative to play these off against each other. For example, anything under a week old can be automatically marked as Premium content if it passes a certain set of automatically learned rules — such as length, keywords, or propensity for readers to purchase. Otherwise it is just a plain ‘Archives’ article. The rule of thumb is that long-form and relatively recent news articles are more valuable, should be charged at a Premium rate — and consumers will see them more often.

  • ‘Archive’ articles marked as ‘Premium’ can drive 50–100% more conversions than Archive articles alone, especially when the call-to-action involves “getting access to our Premium and Archive articles.”

A/B testing is the key to success. We test and refine these options and definitions, and eventually a pattern emerges, which starts to show which combination will work best for a particular publication and its readers.

On some publications we’ve seen underwhelming initial results build-up to an extraordinary cumulative effect which kicks in once a critical mass of readers have encountered the paywall a few times. It sounds a bit mind-boggling and complicated, but this is what our cutting-edge machine learning is for — and it soon finds the most successful combination of variables.

This graph shows the average daily pay-as-you-go spend for Archives on one of our clients — all the result of testing the above variables. The trajectory is impressive and getting more so!

Don’t forget your adblockers. If you combine this approach with a simple and non-intrusive anti-adblocking tactic which appeals to readers to whitelist the publisher site in their adblocker — or pay a small fee to read ad-free and get full access to the Archives — you have a well-rounded approach to monetising readers who have traditionally slipped through the net.

The biggest risk is doing nothing. In the time it will take you to plan the perfect paywall strategy for 2019, you could have implemented several low-risk paywall strategies, and A/B tested hundreds of messages and price points. That way, when you are ready to implement your paywall strategy, you’ll have at your fingertips data that is valuable and relevant, and a database of paying users.

Contact us to start testing now — our solution is quick, simple and FREE.

About Jamatto

Jamatto was born from the conviction that everyone should be able to access a broad range of quality news — easily and without paying a fortune for it. While this access was once paid for by advertising, downward pressures on advertising no longer generate enough revenue to sustain quality news. Subscriptions to multiple newspapers are not a practical option either. Jamatto sees micropayments and microsubscriptions as a key way to sustain an open news ecosystem.

We’ve written a lot more about the news ecosystem in our whitepaper which you can download here.