Even the savviest publisher has to wonder if paywalls are driving away valuable readers and killing ad impressions. A recent study by Toolkits and National Research Group found that 53% of consumers attempt to bypass paywalls, and 69% avoid clicking through when they know the site has one.
A European startup named Sesamy claims it has the answer to this problem: a pay-per-click model in which the visitor pays to read single articles, maybe for a dollar per click. The new service, SmartID, has been garnering publicity in recent days.
Some media brands have tried the pay-per-click approach in the past, but did not stick with it, the company claims.
These older services lacked “software to show which articles and for which readers pay-per-click should be an option,” states co-founder and CEO Måns Ulvestam.
They may also have failed to meet the other challenge: charging per click without endangering topline subscription revenue.
It's not clear if pay-per-click would work for mass media sites in the U.S., or would be worth the trouble based on the limited evidence available.
A standard practice for major sites is to offer a few free articles, then to move the person along to a full subscription.
That may be undone in some cases by a new offering from the email service provider Yahoo Mail. The new tool, Free Trial Tracker, delivers top-of-inbox reminders that help consumers manage trial subscriptions. Alerts are sent when a “free trial” period is about to expire, so the user can decide whether to continue a subscription or cancel before getting charged.
When should a person be offered a freebie or a pay-per-click? That’s where technology comes in.
Last year, Canada’s Globe and Mail launched a tool that can determine whether to present a paywall. Sophi, a technology developed in-house, uses deep-learning technology to automate that and other publishing decisions, according to reports.
Sesamy is backed by a €3.3m seed round led by investment firm GP Bullhound. But adoption so far is apparently limited to two Swedish news sites: Breakit, and Kvartal, both of which recently signed on.
But Sesamy has some experience in offering content online: it serves as a content portal for e-books and other content that readers can pay to access—per click.
The company was founded by Ulvestam, Karl Rosander and Markus Ahlstrand, who previously co-founded the podcasting platform Acast.
They may be on to something. The recent Toolkits survey found that 70% of consumers have signed up for a free subscription with no intent of paying when the trial expires. But 43% say they are more likely to pay if the website has allowed them to view some content for free. Maybe that extends to cheap clicks.
$1/click sounds like a lot unless you know the article is really substantive.