This is part of a series of blogposts on news site design. Newspapers need designers. Good design improves circulation, reader engagement, brand individuality and allows great content to be more easily navigated and read. Enter our design contest and you could win a trip to Mediafabric and a chance to present your news site design to some of the leading media experts in the world.
Many news sites employ a user-subscription model in some way - whether it’s paywalls, or simply additional content for logged in users. This great article discusses another way: business class, a freemium for news. The debate has raged long and hard over which model works and big sites like the New York Times has been at the centre of it. In July, four months after their paywall was launched, the NYT announced it had monetised over 400,000 online users.
But that's the New York Times. One size does not fit all. Your site is different, and each site needs to strategise its own approach to content, readership and profit. One thing remains certain however; design is at the heart of this process.
In our CMS Newscoop, templates can be constructed in such a way that they deliver content and different design, depending on the status of the user (logged in or not) and their subscription (does the user have access to this article, section, or language?). How both this process, and the site behind it, are managed visually is crucial to reader experience. If readers subscribe, they want to feel valued. If they don't, you probably want to entice them with attractive and approachable design even in the areas off limits. Maybe they'll upgrade.
If a reader ventures into an area on your site where they do not have access, you can manage in your templates what they will get to see - or what they will be able to do (like writing comments). Visual design should remain consistent across both restricted and open content - maintaining 'brand trust' by allowing the transition between these two types of content is vital. Without it readers will feel uncomfortable and likely head off somewhere else to find their news.
When preparing your publication's site map, it's a very good idea to map out which parts of the site - if any - will be visible to subscribers only. It's also important to try to figure out how much of each article you want to display to non-subscribers. According to these decisions you might also plan the fields in an article - there could be a part of the article which is only available to subscribers, like the phone number in classifieds, while everything else is available to all readers.
Maintaining page design so that a site feels complete even with omitted fields is a must.
For our purposes as site implementers, here are some other things to consider:
Planning ahead, regardless of your site's approach to monetising content, will ensure paying subscribers get the added value they signed up for. Non-subscribers will hopefully be persuaded to give a little bit more for something extra in return.
What's your ideal approach to designing for paywalls and subscription sites?
The Newscoop Design Contest is now open. Free flights, accommodation, expert design consultancy and Mediafabric tickets are all up for grabs!
You can find out more about Newscoop's templates and themes in the Newscoop Cookbook, from which this post was adapted. Huge thanks to the original authors.