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Paywalls and Publicity: What’s the Impact?

You had the perfect pitch and garnered publicity from a reputable publication. That’s a nice win, especially if you squeeze every drop of value from it by promoting the promotion.

But what if your publicity is locked behind a paywall?

NY Times - Publicity and Paywalls

Earned and social media expert Aaron Lee breaks down how paywalls and publicity interact:

Bad News:

Less sharing

Consumer Trust by Media - Publicity and Paywalls

No source is more trusted for company news than traditional media.

Though it may be a dying industry, traditional media (the most trusted source for information about a company) and social media have become more trusted.

A business that scores publicity would be wise to package the two. That’s a problem when paywalls get involved, Aaron says.

“Social media is one of the main drivers of earned media – the result of communities coming together to discuss and share value-added content,” Aaron says. “When content is accessible only to paid subscribers, it lowers the chance for people to join, participate and most importantly spread the message.

“Hence, in its most basic form, a paywall decreases the value of earned media because of its inefficiency in getting the word out.”

Silver Linings:

Not a complete blackout

Many news sites allow non-subscribers to access unlimited articles on its front page and a limited number per month deeper on the site.

This means that a southern Californian (who presumably would subscribe to The Los Angeles Times if anywhere) will likely be able to access your news hit on subscriber outlet The Washington Post if you promote it through your marketing channels properly.

For more PR and publicity news, click here!

People crave information

Paywall construction will not change the fact that people perform more and more research before making a purchasing decision.

In 2010, customers consulted 5.3 sources before making a purchasing decision. By 2011, the number had nearly doubled to 10.4 sources.

As people look for information, your business will likely appear high in search results because news sites are credible sources and Google recognizes that.

Reach a more-targeted audience

Even if a paywall does limit the audience, who will the content reach?

People willing to invest in a publication with a paywall—whether it’s a national news outlet like The Wall Street Journal or a regional news provider like The Baltimore Sun—are highly invested in the content because it involves a topic of extreme interest. This could lead to deeper conversations on those sites, Aaron says.

“It’s possible that readers that have paid for a subscription would make their money worthwhile and spend more time reading articles from that site, giving them more opportunity to become advocates and promote the content,” Aaron says.

Your property’s value increases

If people remain resistant to signing up for paywalls, it will increase the value of non-paywall sites because they will deliver more mentions and social shares, Aaron says.

“Sites without a paywall, social media platforms included, play an important and often overlooked role to delivering content,” Aaron says. “People read what their friends share on social media platforms and listen to what they have to say.

“Simply put, I believe sites without a paywall will be shared more than those with paywalls.”

Why is this good news? Your content platforms (email, blog, social media) will never have a paywall in front of them. Turn the publicity into content on your digital platforms and people will still value and share it.

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Image: planeta (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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