ALM Uses Metered Paywall to Add Revenue, Expand Base and Community

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“People need to experience the content they’re asked to purchase.”

That quote came from Jeffrey Litvack, group president, intelligence and chief digital officer for ALM, and a primary speaker at SIIA’s Buying & Selling Content, Wednesday, Jan. 27 in New York. (See the top-notch agenda!) His session is aptly titled, Getting Readers to Pay in the Mobile Economy, and he will be joined by Josh Rucci, global head of content sales, Bloomberg Media Group.

For the above reason, ALM’s very successful digital membership model allows attorneys in their marketplace to sample five free articles in any given 30-day period (a bit Eurail-ish). Then, they are asked to subscribe. This model was responsible for doubling their revenue the first year it was implemented and improve it by another 10% the second year.

“We are constantly finding new customers now,” said Litvack. “Sampling the content, large users are finding that that they really do need this. Another important part of the overall model is the value today of registering. We get to know who they are, and [seeing what they click on] will help us shape the content. They also become part of our community and get discounts to programming.”

Also beneficial is that subscribers in one ALM network have access to content in another. So a New York Law Journal subscriber can sample content from American Lawyer. Litvack likes when they can expose users to a multitude of content. Again, it allows them to see where people are going and what’s most relevant.

“Within our models there’s a lot of fine tuning; it’s not one size fits all,” he said. Litvack was surprised by another item many saw as a benefit. "One of our more relevant stats... was that when offered to buy subscriptions [after they completed a short trial] one in three attorneys who bought the digital chose the print with it." The price is higher so Litvack is okay with that.

"The key is not to get locked down up front, or try to solve everything day one—iteration and learning,” he said. Put something out there sooner and learn from the experience. That’s better than putting out something you can’t change. The actual experience online will tell you what works.” 

ALM puts content in three categories:
- One is free, never metered and includes obituaries, letters to the editors and other content of that type;
- The second is metered content and that includes 80-90% of everything;
- The third is premium content.

Litvack said knowing the value of the content—which he considers of ultimate importance—can depend on its public good, if it’s relevant to that particular audience, or if it’s relevant or beneficial to advertisers. They use social to drive a younger audience; users can come in from search or social and read an article for free.

“We live in a very social world,” said Litvack. “Our editors are posting things often. We want our subscribers to share stories—maybe we can convert them to premium.”

Litvack said that they do moderate testing, believing that you can “over-test. Like most media companies, we’re resource-challenged and have to be smart where we deploy them.” In addition to content, ALM sells many awareness products such as analyst reports and databases. “We’re investing in the type of data that will be critical components of the success of media in the future.”

“It comes down to understanding the client/customer/subscriber. One of our big pushes of 2013 was to move from individual subscriptions to enterprise.” This allowed them to develop large law firm accounts. Individually, subscriptions were valued less, but it grew their overall readership and engagement.

“It was also about [the lawyers in those firms] becoming a part of our community and expanding our base,” Litvack said. “It really comes down to helping them to perform their job. What’s going to help them do their jobs better?”

ALM just expanded their base even further, having just acquired Legal Week from Incisive Media in an effort to strengthen its presence in Europe and Asia.


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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…