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In 2019, Publishers Take Back Control with Subscription Success

The Rise of the Mature User

In 2019, readers got clued into the tug of war between publishers and platforms that had been stewing for years. The year began with users all over the world harboring disdain toward the platforms following the fake news fallout of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Facebook's data-misuse scandal. This damaging shadow prompted Facebook to launch its so-called "family and friends" algorithm update in January 2018 to rebuild trust with its users. But it's been an uphill battle ever since.


Release from platform dependency meant that content diversification, new monetization strategies, and audience development became a top priority for publishers big and small throughout the year. The good news is that the chaos made user experience a top priority, too. Just like publishers, the modern content consumer has grown tired of the platforms and, in turn, is willing to find content elsewhere. And thanks to the saturation of content we all battle in the digital realm, readers are all too wary of the ways publishers and marketers use cheap tricks to garner clicks.

Users are ready to consume quality content in a way that's quick, efficient, and less obtrusive than ever before. Still, publishers need to generate revenue. Which is why 2018 didn't just shake up the platforms. It also brought back a resurgence in search, inched us even closer to a world without ads, and ushered in the rise of subscription models.

And it all makes perfect sense. The subscription model eliminates the middleman — such as the platforms — so readers get the experience and content they want, and publishers get the cash they need.

We can count this as a win for digital publishing when looking forward to 2019. Because as the modern user matures, so does technology. And with more control being put back in the hands of publishers, the way we monetize advances in maturity as well.

The Success of Subscriptions

In the past, there was a stigma around paywalls that signaled they were only sustainable for large publishers with massive audiences already in place. But with today's users maturing, subscription models are more attainable for a variety of emerging media properties and legacy names alike.

In the UK, publishers felt their own pressure in 2018 over the uncertainty of the newly instated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Even so, subscriptions served as a driving force of growth for digital revenue, accounting for a 15% increase in revenue over the previous year according to the Association for Online Publishing.

At RebelMouse, our clients are experiencing success with subscriptions as well. The Italian newspaper La Verità, has seen tremendous growth using RebelMouse's paywall system. In August 2018, their returning visitors increased by 74% and new visitors increased by 115%! La Verità is averaging 14 pages per visitor, far above the industry standard.

DiversityInc, which is also powered by RebelMouse, has increased their traffic and captured B2B revenue behind a subscription paywall. This model works well because people want to be associated with brands by virtue of what they stand for. Within 30 days, DiversityInc was able to increase returning visitors by 76% and new visitors by 25%.

In late 2018, The New York Times made headlines at the end of its third quarter with a 200,000+ increase in paid digital subscribers, bringing their grand total up to three million. They also announced a content bundle partnership with Scribd, which could be an interesting trend to follow as subscriptions become more popular. Much like cable networks began to bundle channels into packages, digital subscriptions could follow suit.

Subscriptions and the Platform Puzzle

It's no surprise that the platforms are anxious to get their hands in the subscription game too. Both Facebook and Google debuted features in 2018 to make it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions. In April 2018, Google launched Subscribe with Google with a few partners, which allows a user's Google account to manage several different subscriptions.

A look at Subscribe with Google, from Digiday.

Facebook began testing subscription sales within Instant Articles, and reported in June 2018 that the beta program resulted in a 17% increase in signups. Facebook also held a boot camp throughout Spring 2018 with local news publishers on how to build a successful subscription business. So far, publishers' feelings about these programs have been mixed. While the new integrations may only bring about a slight lift in subscribers, there's a greater appreciation among publishers in knowing (and seeing) that the mega-platforms are making a conscious effort to help them out at all.

Is a Subscription Model Right for You?

When the digital publishing industry first emerged, there was an unspoken truth that content should be free. While this sentiment has definitely changed, the fear of losing users by gating content can be nerve-racking to publishers even in 2019.

It's important to strike the right balance between free content, subscriber revenue, and ad strategy. This is a lot to juggle for publishers who are already maxed out trying to create quality content worth reading.

An example of a subscription environment on DiversityInc.com (powered by RebelMouse).

Paywall API

RebelMouse's paywall API is available to developers to make it easy to manage subscriptions. Access to paid content is managed via subscriptions attached to email qualifiers. Click here for more information on our Paywall API.

Get Started Today

At RebelMouse, we can help you determine if a subscription model will benefit you, and then build a custom, easy-to-use paywall system that works for your site. If you're not publishing on RebelMouse, we also operate as a world-class creative agency that can help you navigate either the subscription business, or any other content strategy you may be building toward. Either way, request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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Meet RebelMouse

Build on a better platform that supports far-reaching content distribution, impactful conversion, and unparalleled loyalty.

The world's largest companies trust us to power their global, multiplatform content experience. As a platform, we're now one of the largest in the world, reaching 50+ million people every month. As a creative agency, we build mass pop culture hits that grow organically to become household names — Axios and The Dodo, for example.

We work strategically with United Airlines and many other brands to establish the new media roadmap for their future and implement it. RebelMouse was founded by the CTO who built The Huffington Post. The founding vision and mission is still the same today: to be the right new media platform for both media companies and brands. It's working exceedingly well, and we're delivering some staggering results for our clients.

Read our latest deck here!

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How to Include Interactive Elements in Posts

Enhance your articles with rich and creative media

Every article is a fresh chance to grab new readers and nurture loyal followers. This is why we give creators every opportunity to build content rich with media elements that enhance every reader's experience.

Add More Layers to Your Content

You can easily add interactive elements, like charts, to posts on our platform. For example, if you need to embed iframe code into a post, this can be done via our Add Media Bar. To do so, click the code icon (< >):

A text box will appear so you can insert your code:

Embedded Code Across Platforms

One important thing to keep in mind is that Google AMP, AppleNews, and Facebook Instant Articles will not always support embedded code. So if you use an iframe, it's best to turn off distribution to those channels for that particular post. If you have a lot of posts that require embedded code, this could be problematic for growth across those important platforms.

If you do want to use an iframe on a post destined for Google AMP distribution, it can be possible if the iframe is not at the top of the page or within the first 75% of the viewport when the page is scrolled to the top (whichever is smaller). AMP is a fast technology designed for mobile users and iframes are loaded using arbitrary timing that AMP's technology cannot ensure. For this reason, it's suggested that iframes be included in places that are not visible by users upon load.

If you have an article that needs to include an iframe at the top of the page, or within the first 75% of the viewport, AMP can be turned off for that individual article within Entry Editor.

If you don't need an interactive chart to be interactive in nature, can turn it into an image and upload it directly to your post. This way it will work on all platforms, including Google AMP, Apple News, and Facebook Instant Articles. This option, when possible, is ideal to ensure you're optimized for page speed.

Take Advantage of Shortcodes

Another great way to embed media is through our shortcodes functionality. Click here to learn more about shortcodes. Shortcodes can also inserted using the Add Media Bar. Click the brackets icon ([ ]) to choose the shortcode you want to use.

Here's an example of a chart on an article page that's been inserted using a shortcode:

If you have any questions about how to add interactive elements to your content, please email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager today.

Shortcodes Dashboard: Dynamic Media in Just a Few Clicks

Create multidimensional content with easy-to-find shortcodes

We believe static media is dead, and that every piece of content should be multidimensional and engaging. This is why our platform enables creators so they can add dynamic media to their content in easy and efficient ways.

One simple way to add interactive content to any post is through the use of shortcodes. Shortcodes are small snippets of code that are easier to remember than longer sequences. They typically will activate a feature or embed media into an article.

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How to Add Scalable Vector Graphics to RebelMouse

Quickly add an SVG to any page

A Scalable Vector Graphic, or SVG, is a type of graphic format that gives you more flexibility than standard formats like JPEG or PNG.

To add an SVG to your RebelMouse site, first go to your Layout & Design tool. Next, open the SVG in a code editor and copy the entire <svg> element. Then, add a Custom HTML element to your layout and paste in the SVG code:

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How to Find Work-Life Balance as a Remote Employee

Tips from our CEO on making the most of an office-free lifestyle

Working from home is becoming increasingly popular, with an estimated 66% of companies now allowing remote work and 16% operating completely office-free. RebelMouse is one of those fully remote companies, and over the years we've mastered how to stay close to each other despite being spread across more than a dozen countries. We believe working remotely is good for both our personal lives and our productivity. Read more about this here.

Still, working free from the shackles of an office environment doesn't mean every day is a dance party in your pajamas from 9 to 5. Working from home comes with its own set of challenges just like any other job.

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Canvas Page and Shareable Element: An Easier Way to Organize

In our Layout & Design tool, you have the option to create new pages and reuse them anywhere within your templates. With this update, we wanted to create a clear distinction between what is used as a Canvas page — a blank page, open to any design and structure — and a Shareable Element — a block or page created specifically to be reused as a module within another page or site.

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