I recently had the chance to talk with Matthew Mitchell, CEO and co-founder of MediaPass (one of our BlogWorld 2010 Sponsors) to talk about how their subscription program works and how you can use Media Pass as a new monetization strategy for your blog!
How/when did you come up with the idea for MediaPass?
The short answer is that it wasn’t just my idea. MediaPass wouldn’t exist if not for the vision of one of our lead investors and Chairman, Jeffrey Tinsley. He and I have many years of experience in the online subscription world with MyLife. We both knew that asking users to pay for some content always outyields a purely advertising-based revenue model. After bringing MyLife and Jeff’s previous business, Great Domains, to over $70M in annual subscription revenue, a couple publishers came to us for counsel on getting their paid subscription strategy and implementation right. Jeff in particular advised a website called Docstoc on strategy and really encouraged them to get paid elements up in the right way. Docstoc increased their revenue seven-fold almost immediately.
We realized it might be possible to automate our subscription experience, so to speak. The goal was to build something for blogs and other online publishers that eliminates the financial burden and time commitment of incorporating and operating paid subscriptions. The real challenge was trying to accomplish our primary goal: making it as easy to use as Google Adsense. We wanted to turn something extremely complex into something easy to use. It took a year of development but we made it work and accomplished all of the goals we originally had for the product.
Can you briefly describe how a blogger makes money incorporating MediaPass onto their site?
Requiring a paid subscription for some content always outyields having a revenue model that is 100% ad based. So a blogger makes money using MediaPass because they are able to participate in that increased revenue and do so in a way that’s even more sophisticated than large publishers who spend seven figures building subscription functionality internally.
How does MediaPass get paid?
We charge nothing up front and we don’t make any money unless the publisher does. We take a percentage of the subscription revenue, a percentage that scales down with volume.
How quickly can a blogger implement MediaPass on their site?
How technical is the implementation – can anyone do it?
No technical experience is needed. If a blog has any type of advertising on their site they already know how to implement MediaPass. And even if they don’t have any, it’s still extremely simple.
How easy is to flag specific pages/posts as part of the subscription? Is it on an individual basis or can someone associate an entire category in their blog?
Publishers choose which pages/posts they want to be subscription content. Much like Google Adsense, we generate a unique snippet of code for them at registration. They simply put that code on any page they want to require a subscription to view the content.
Do you think the product works best for any particular niche of blogs/content?
There is a huge range of monetization using MediaPass. The metric we use most to show the strength of monetization is effective CPM. Since CPM is widely used and understood by bloggers as a metric for advertising monetization, we use it so they have a barometer for how their subscription pages compare to the ads they’re running. That being said, the eCPM’s on our subscription page range from $25 to $200. Blogs such as parenting, health, cooking, how to, finance, medical and others will probably see eCPM’s over $100 while blogs like, say, gossip may be only be around $40.
Do you have suggestions for a blogger with an existing audience – and how they transition some of their content to subscription without upsetting their readers?
Don’t put a paywall in front of your entire site.
Really? Sorry, just didn’t expect that from someone I would assume is pro paywall.
Actually, in most ways we don’t even consider ourselves purely a subscription company. We want to maximize the revenue for publishers and blogs. We’re a monetization company. We just happen to know from experience that charging for some content is required to maximize revenue. There are plenty of easy tools for blogs to make money from online ads but no easy way to charge for their content. So we’re filling that void.
Also, most passionate bloggers didn’t start blogging for financial rewards. If that is what drove them, they would have picked a different profession or hobby. They don’t want to lose their audience and putting a wall in front of their entire blog will surely do that. Ask the Times of London. If done correctly, there is no reason why they should lose much – or really any – traffic.
You mentioned the Times of London. What about them?
How much time do you have? They put a paywall in front of almost their entire site and lost a material amount of traffic. Like any good company, theirs was a purely financial decision. One that will probably pay off. But I still don’t think that walling off their whole site was the best way to maximize revenue and it certainly wasn’t the best way to retain and increase traffic.
Do you have any examples of how other websites are using MediaPass?
We built MediaPass to be used in a variety of ways because we wanted, needed really, to have our offering appeal to a broad range of publishers. Our publishers use us to charge for their archived content or just certain sections of their site. Some hand pick content that they intuitively know their users will pay for. Publishers can even create a new premium section that didn’t exist before, which is one of many ways to ensure their subscription revenue is all incremental. We even have one publisher that only asks for a subscription when a user hits their advertising frequency caps. There are dozens of strategies.
Do you handle the customer service for readers paying, stopping their subscription, etc?
Yes. We handle all customer service components. We built this so that a publishers and bloggers don’t need to do anything but continue to put out the content their readers enjoy, and the customer is one of the many things we handle on their behalf. By the way, our customer service reps are all in the U.S. and have knowledge and visibility into all the blogs so they can easily support all customer issues. Sorry, had to put my marketing hat on there.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Well, marketing hat back on and being passionate about what we’re doing here…. I think all blogs should give us a try. There is an appropriate mix of free and paid content for almost all blogs. It doesn’t cost you anything and there is no commitment.
And thanks for the opportunity to tell the MediaPass story.