How Hearst Newspapers Converts Free Content Readers to Paid Subscribers

How Hearst Newspapers Converts Free Content Readers to Paid Subscribers

And what advertisers think about paywalls

An interview with:
Robertson Barrett
President, Digital Media
Hearst Newspapers

As legacy publishers’ print ad revenues shrink, the race to boost digital revenues is on. For some publishers, that means converting more digital readers to paid subscribers. eMarketer’s Patricia Orsini spoke with Robertson Barrett, Hearst Newspapers’ president of digital media, about the company’s strategy for gaining subscribers, and how advertisers feel about paywalls.


How does Hearst Newspapers make decisions about offering readers free content vs. paid subscriptions?

Robertson Barrett:

We’re trying all models to learn what works best. We’re not even assuming that one strategy is optimal for all markets.

But, for example, in our major markets—Houston, San Antonio and San Francisco—we have free, advertising-supported sites that tend to focus on breaking news and real-time content. Those sites have fairly substantial reach of around 60% in their markets. They leverage content from the newspapers, but are run by separate digital teams. We also have paid sites that follow the newsrooms’ output more closely, and have longer takes, multimedia packages and enterprise journalism.

We’re increasingly focused on the interplay between those properties, and we’re focused aggressively on learning how to exploit the intersection of them as a potential strength.

Interview conducted on January 18, 2018

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