Conversion analysis reveals some missed opportunities

The New York Observer paints a pretty stunning picture of one attempt to launch an online newspaper Web site. Was it to be expected, or is this an online sales conversion problem?
The article states that, after a $4 million overhaul and redesign,, the online arm of the Long Island daily Newsday had attracted only 35 subscribers in three months.
Author John Koblin also writes that, since moving the site content behind a “pay wall,” traffic has dropped from 2.2 million monthly unique visits to 1.5 million in just three months. This may not be surprising, since there is little free content available from the online newspaper.

Does Content Want to be Free?

I don’t think so. The price people will pay for content is determined in part by:

  1. The price placed on it – What do others think it is worth?
  2. Relevance – Should I care about it?
  3. Timeliness – Am I getting information when I need it?
  4. Uniqueness – Can I get the same thing somewhere else for free?

If your content wants to be free, then you haven’t branded it with at least one of these aspects.
Newsday’s content should pass the test with flying colors.

  1. Price: They’re pricing it at $5 a week.
  2. Relevance: It is certainly relevant to residents of Long Island.
  3. Timeliness: New stories every day and breaking news.
  4. Uniqueness: How many online news sources are there for Long Island?

As you will see in my Website review of (see video) they didn’t make the case. To some extent the content – stories, videos and applications – should make the case by itself. However, the site has the same categories, layout and value proposition of many news sites.
So far, all has done is put a price on it’s content.

The proper way to charge for online content

What Newsday’s designers and developers failed to tell management is that runs on computers, and computers can monitor the activities of those reading the online edition. This means you can test just about anything in the court of public opinion.
Instead of changing everything, should have tested their way into the new business model.
Test the variety of business models to be available: micropayments, donation strategies, “pay for everyone” strategies, as well as the “pay wall” approach.
Test how much “free” content is needed to keep site traffic up.
Test how to present pricing.
Test the price points that will deliver subscribers.
Of course, a testing strategy doesn’t deliver a $4 million pay day to an agency and development team. There are few incentives for patience. If management didn’t think they had the time for a measured rollout before, they certainly don’t now. Reacts

Key Page Review-Free consultationBlog posted a chart showing four possible layouts for the site. It appears that is “enhancing its website” by “updating its color scheme.”
I don’t believe this is going to help.
It’s great that they are asking their readers what they think, but Newsday’s problems are elsewhere when you look at it through the eyes of a Conversion Scientist.
Here is my Key Page Review of Watch to find out where I believe Newsday has gone worked to prevent subscribers from completing a transaction on their site.
Would you like a similar analysis of your site? Request a Conversion Sciences Key Page Review.
Brian illustrated signature

Why would I pay to advertise free information? Does it make sense?

The answer is, “Yes.” On December 10, I’m going to show you the techniques marketers use to make it pay, and I’m going to do it with your content.
Why, you might ask, does it make sense to use your scarce marketing dollars to advertise free information? The answer is this:

At any given time, more people are considering a product or service like yours than are ready to buy a product or service like yours.

Many more.
Thus, if you can get the attention of someone while they’re still thinking about how to solve a problem, you can expect more of them to visit you when they ARE ready to buy.
The key is content that converts, the kind of educational, helpful, informative content that your business generates all of the time. You may say, “My business doesn’t generate any online information.” Oh, but it does.
It’s hiding in plain site. It’s in the product specifications you write. It’s in the sales presentations you’ve created. It’s in the blog posts that you’ve written. It’s in the emails that your most grateful customers have written you.

It’s not actually free if you’re generating leads

If you are doing lead generation, your information isn’t free. The consumer of this helpful and informative knowledge pays with their attention, with a little information about themselves and by extending you some permission – on credit – to continue conversing with them.

The results may well be better than your benefit-oriented ad copy

If I have decided to solve my problem with a product or service like yours, a benefit- or discount-oriented ad will do the trick. However, if I am part of the much larger audience that is still “in the question,” I won’t even know how to process your offer.
Content can help me decide. It can help me make cost tradeoffs. It can help me sell a solution to my boss. It can help me understand the real cost of not solving the problem. It can help me rationalize a purchase.

Which desk drawer is your gold hiding in?

You’re invited to spend a day with me and a panel of smart marketers as we transform plain, everyday information into content that sells.
Join us on December 10 in Austin, Texas for BYOContent: The Extreme Conversion Makeover Workshop.
By the time you leave, you will know:

  • How to identify ordinary content that your visitors will find extraordinary
  • How to present it in ads and on your Web site so that visitors can’t miss it
  • How to use it to generate leads with it
  • How to use it to entice prospects to buy
  • Where to find the free and inexpensive tools needed to transform and deliver your content

Join me, Apogee Search’s Alissa Ruehl, online marketing expert Jane Dueease and a room full of smart people like you as we turn ordinary information into online content that will grow our businesses.
Act before Thanksgiving, and we’ll knock $50 off the price. Breakfast, lunch, and a snack are on us.
If the Web is important to your business, this will be one of the most eye-opening events of the year.
Of course, I’d appreciate you sharing this email with other businesses, but don’t send it on until you’ve secured your own seat. I like to keep my workshops somewhat intimate.
Get the details and reserve your place in the room. This is going to be a fun one.
Best regards,
Brian Massey