Readers respond to BizWest paywall

Late last summer, as BizWest prepared to unveil its metered paywall online, we wondered what effect it would have on our readers and our website traffic. Did we have the right model? Would readers accept the idea of paying for content online? Would our website traffic plummet?

As the system was implemented, we tweaked a number of things, allowing for up to five articles to be viewed for free each month. After that, we reasoned, readers should be willing to pay for the content that they read. It’s a model that has been implemented at media large and small — including many other local publications — and we believed that it would work for us.

And it has. Most readers seem more than willing to pay a modest subscription price for the most powerful local business-news content in the region — more than is produced by all the daily newspapers in our region combined.

Readers seem to agree, and have embraced the new model, with hundreds of new “Digital Basic”  subscriptions rolling in and growth in our paid print circulation as well, through the BizWest PrintPlus subscription, providing both digital and print content. Others have signed on for BizWest Unlimited, which adds full access to our wealth of business data. (Think our Book of Lists and many directories.)

What’s happened to our Web traffic? Page views to BizWest have doubled from a year ago, although they did dip for a couple of months after the paywall was implemented. Recent growth is due partly to better search-engine optimization and a faster-loading website. But reader engagement has increased as well, with more people spending more time on the site, visiting more pages.

Things are not perfect. BizWest is working hard to streamline the registration and login process for its readers. We know that has been a source of frustration for many. We think it’s getting better, and we’d like to hear of any issues you’re having, especially in the past week or so, when some improvements went into effect.

While most readers seem to understand that BizWest, like all media, requires new revenue models in the digital age, a few — a very few — have questioned why we need to charge for content. Two readers, both from the engineering sector, wrote recently to ask why we implemented the paywall or, effectively, why we need to charge for our services. (They neglected to provide a list of their own business’ services or products that they provide for free.)

Here’s why we implemented the meter: BizWest has a talented team of reporters, editors, researchers, freelancers, graphic designers, accounting, circulation, events and account executives, and we want to ensure that we have the resources to pay them to do the jobs they do so well. As with most businesses, we require a diverse mix of revenues — advertising doesn’t pay for everything — and we believe that the metered model provides the best of both worlds: still providing some content for free, but asking those who use our services the most to pay a modest fee.

For those of you who have done so, we thank you. For those who have thus far demurred, we’ll work hard to prove our worth.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwestmedia.com.

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