Software can help integrate circulation

May 6, 2014

By Scott Bray
Circulation Product Manager | MediaSpan

A growing number of publishers seek to protect and monetize their content and the emerging trend is the implementation of a paywall or a flexible digital subscription model.

Digital subscriptions can range from a hard paywall, where the reader has no access without a subscription to a metered approach. A metered approach gives a reader a “flavor” of what content is available before requiring him or her to sign up for a longer term commitment. They may also simply offer a preview of all the content currently available.

With a multitude of options on the market, one of the challenges publishers face is how to best integrate their digital access solution with their existing circulation system and processes. Additionally, the end users wants instantaneous access to content once they subscribe. This can best be accomplished by selecting a circulation system that includes an integrated digital subscription management system or paywall.

The Paxton Media Group, headquartered in Paducah, KY, was recently faced with this issue. Paxton Media Group is a privately held media company, which includes 32 dailies in addition to weeklies and TV holdings.

The Paducah Sun implemented a paywall for its online edition at its inception. In the past, managing starts, stops and payments for online subscribers was more art than science. The staff was recording the online subscriber database in the circulation software system, but had to manually cross-reference subscriber lists and payment histories with third-party hosting providers. There was no direct control over customer passwords and other elements of the paywall systems of other providers. That often led to delays of 24 hours or more to resolve customer issues with paywall access.

Last fall, The Paducah Sun switched its online product to the MediaSpan Web-publishing suite. In doing so, it was able to incorporate a paywall managed directly from the software system.

“We can now turn paywall access off and on, retrieve forgotten passwords and provide other customer service directly from the system without the delays that previously came from having to involve third parties,” said Jim Paxton, publisher and editor of the Paducah Sun. “Our customers can also sign up for an account, obtain a password and make payments on their account online. In the past there were delays between signing up and receiving a password, again because we had to involve third parties.

“Customers seem to like the new site and features. We added more than 100 online subscribers during a five-week period and now have about 1,800 paid subscribers to the online edition, comprising 10 percent of our total paid circulation,” he added.

Key features to look for in assessing such a service:

• Responsive design, which will allow your users to access the information regardless of what device they choose.

• Flexibility to offer either a metered or hard paywall with the ability to restrict access by section, by number of views or even by standard and “premium” content.

• The ability to offer flexible subscription models and “packages” with the flexibility to offer a variety of options like print-only subscription to an “all access” pass where the subscriber receives content in all the available formats (Web, print, mobile etc.).

• Integration with an existing or new circulation management system.

There are many options in the market today for publishers who want to increase and monetize their online and digital content. The value of exclusive digital content should not be overlooked, and an integrated digital management and circulation solution will only help in capitalizing on that value.

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