Putting Newspaper Paywalls to work For Public Radio
Most daily newspapers have paywalls. Most Public Radio Stations do not. If fact, I can’t think of one who does and a paywall would cross the line of our public service mission.
Driving traffic to your website from paywalled sites
Most paywalls give a visitor a limited number of article views before demanding they register or pay to gain further access. There are discounts, often as low as $1 a month, for new subscriptions.
Savvy web users know they can often bypass that article limit by browsing in “private” or “in cognito” mode that prevents the users IP from being registered on the site, thus giving them pretty much unfettered access to the newspaper site.
Recently, Tribune (nee Tronk, nee Tribune) papers, including the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel have started limiting access by private browsing windows to nonsubscribers. They’ve been experimenting with various systems and recent checks have indicated there are some days where private browsing works and some it doesn’t. But to be sure, newspaper sites are dedicated to figuring out how to get users to pay for their sites AND prevent nonsubscribers from circumventing their paywalls.
Make your site rank along with the daily for key words in stories
- Rename the page url to be as SEO friendly as possible. In fact, if the story you’re getting ready to publish is already up on a competitors website then take a look at their url and use words as close as possible to theirs.
- But make sure your url is search friendly. It’s hard to guess at what the public will use to search a particular story. And most stations don’t have an SEO Keywords staff member who can figure it out; and that would take too much time anyway. Make sure your url contains the most relevant word you can think of. If you’re doing a profile of a person then make sure that name (not their position) is in the title. Alter the url to include any other famous name that might be mentioned in the story. https://yourstation.org/senate-race-heads-to-end.html is not as search friendly as https://yourstation.org/Bill-Smith-and-Andy-Markumski-statename-senate-race-2018.html.
- As we mentioned before, it is always a good idea to get those words and phrases in the top 1-3 lines of your story. This reinforces what the story is about to Google and other search engines. You can do it in a “quick read” bullet or two at the top of the story before the text begins. Writing for the web is much different than writing for radio where we might delay mentioning the candidates names to set up the scene in a listeners head. Search engines don’t get that.
Our goal is here is to make sure we rank as high as possible and as close as possible to the site most people in your market turn to for news first. Once they hit the paywall, they may search words used in their headline and you want to be right up there when then do.
So should we promote our No Paywalls policy on the air?
I an not entirely sure. My marketing side says yes, it is an advantage over the competition. My Membership side that could cause resentment among members. But maybe not if it was communicated properly. I often say that Public Radio is supported by the few for the benefit of the many. That might work, but I will have to think about it.