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For some publishers, such as The New York Times, metered paywalls have provided a much-needed revenue stream by converting free, loyal readers into paying digital subscribers. But Newsweek is going in the other direction, opting to drop its paywall Wednesday morning.
"The general strategy is to open up and allow folks the ability to experience and really enjoy the journalism that's happening on Newsweek," IBT Media Chief Marketing Officer Mitchell Caplan told Ad Age.
Previously, Newsweek.com capped readers at five free articles per month, before asking them to consider subscribing -- as a digital-only customer ($34.99 per year), or as a print and digital customer ($99.99 per year). In the U.S., Newsweek has about 100,000 subscribers, when combining print and digital offerings, Mr. Caplan said, with slightly more digital-only subscribers than print subscribers.
The company isn't doing away with digital subscriptions, however: Some content on Newsweek's website will still be subscriber-only. Going forward, digital subscribers will have exclusive access to the magazine's current issue, excluding its cover story. After a certain amount of time, the full issue will be free to all readers.
"There has to be an advantage to being a subscriber," Mr. Caplan said. But he hopes that exposing more people to Newsweek's journalism will create more demand for paid subscriptions.
Dropping the paywall will also keep more people on Newsweek's website. The magazine has an advertising business model, and Mr. Caplan said that "more page views is always better."
According to ComScore data, Newsweek.com had 4.2 million unique U.S. visitors across desktop and mobile devices in December, up 49.4% from the month a year earlier.
In the past, Newsweek has had some technical issues with its paywall, which is provided by Piano. On Twitter, several users have reported that they received a message telling them that they've hit their limits on free articles for the month despite not having previously visited the site.
A Piano representative said the problem was limited to the Newsweek.com site as far as it could tell. "System wide, Piano hasn't seen anything in the backend that would be causing this to happen," he said in an email. The company had been working with Newsweek to resolve the issue.
A Newsweek spokeswoman, when asked last month about the issue, called it "a technological glitch that occurs time to time through our service provider." Mr. Caplan, when asked if back-end issues played into the decision to drop the paywall, said "no."
Newsweek was acquired by IBT Media in 2013, and Mr. Caplan, an agency veteran who joined the company in June 2015, said that Newsweek has unique brand challenges to be met, having "gone out of business twice."
"I think there's still a big part of the marketplace that isn't aware ... that Newsweek is back in print," he said.