Not another paywall survey from PaidContent!?

I suppose with a name like, you have to say something about The Times newspaper‘s attempts to make their paywall profitable.

But to take a survey?! This one is no use whatsoever. And they’ve even got their maths wrong!

According to the survey, 4% of direct visitors say they are ‘extremely likely to pay’ £2 a week to access The Times website.

They extrapolate that figure to make 253,186 people, bringing in a ‘monthly revenue of ‘£2,025,488’.

I have two points about this paidContent baloney:

1. Where did the guys at paidContent:uk learn their maths? As any competent business person will tell you, you don’t multiply weekly revenue by four to get the monthly income. The weekly income comes to £2,194,278 (not £2,025,488) a month because there are not 48 weeks in a year but 52. You divide annual revenue by 12 to get your monthly figure.

I hope the guys at paidContent:uk aren’t pissed off with me for pointing out their poor homework. I’m only trying to be helpful: I have just found an extra £168,790 they didn’t know The Times had. Someone should be pleased..

2. You cannot survey people to see what they will pay because what people say bears no relation whatsoever to what they do. And anyway, to estimate a 2% response to The Times paywall offer is the kind of forecasting that would annoy the hell out of anyone in direct marketing. It’s a pointless exercise, no matter how many charts paidContent:uk produce.

Paywall success is all in the proposition
Lots of things go into a promotion and the most important of these is the proposition – what you are offering the prospect to part with his cash.

The only way to forecast what response The Times is likely to achieve from a proposition or offer is to run a test and see what dosh comes in. Those are the only results that count, and the only thing that Murdoch will be looking at. If I were him, I would have the daily figure ticking on the corner of my screen (in the old days, I would be in the mailroom every morning counting the cheques coming in).

The fact is, tiny things can affect response to a proposition. Do you run a picture of the editor with your promotional message? Or do you run pictures of the top Times columnists? Do you offer a monthly, weekly, daily or annual payment? Is payment by credit card or direct debit? Do you give a free trial? If so, how long should it be: 30 days? 90 days? A week? What incentives should you include in the offer? How long should the message be? What typeface, what size headline, which font? Should you send out a long email message, or a designer template? Should your call to action be a text link to your order page or a button graphic? Should the proposition be:

In this business, seemingly tiny things affect response. (This makes fascinating dinner party conversation, by the way.) As those who have received our recent email marketing report will know, just changing the length of your message can lift response by 430%..

There was a joke up there somewhere. But that uplift in response is the difference between earning £2.19 million a month and £9.42 million a month. Not funny at all.

Someone should send the guys at this quote from Claude Hopkins, from his book Scientific Advertising. It was published in 1923 and it is still relevant today:

“ ... advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness. One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one per cent means much in some mail order advertising.”

So no more silly surveys please!

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