Published by Dutch Journalism Fund (Dutch)
How much time would you save if you could read online articles right away, without having to register first? Cosmin Ene from LaterPay was asking this question as well. In two clicks you can continue reading or looking, paying comes later.
Imagine you go out to dinner at a sushi restaurant. The host welcomes you, asks for you ID and requests you to pay 50 Euros – before you had a bite to eat. Chances are that you would turn around and go to another restaurant. But what is unthinkable in the offline world, still happens on a regular basis online. First you need to subscribe, after that you can read articles.
The idea that this is quite silly is the thought behind LaterPay, an approachable way to offer paid content. LaterPay is the friendly host that lets you eat your sushi in peace and comes with the bill later. It can be integrated on your website in different ways, for example with a WordPress plug-in or by adding a single line of code. After that, two clicks are enough to buy an article, but LaterPay does not only focus on journalism.
LaterPay has more than 100 customers, in all kinds of sectors; including the news sector, online education and science. LaterPay is not connected to one industry and serves everyone, from vloggers to newspapers such as Der Spiegel, Hamburger Morgenpost and, as of last week, Frankfurter Rundschau.
Trusting each other online
According to CEO Cosmin Ene this approach needs to rebuild the trust between customer and publisher. At a restaurant, you also trust that you do not get sick from the food and the owner trusts that you do not run away without paying. This approach also has another effect: the experience of the user is the most important thing. Nothing is as tedious as a comprehensive registration process if you just quickly want to read an article before work.
The results Ene tells me about do not lie. In the past year 70% of visitors agreed with paying in hind sight and only 30% changed their mind about the buy. Of the 70%, 80% actually paid. In five years’ time millions of pieces, from videos to articles, will be published with payments through LaterPay.
For customers, LaterPay offers three different options when it comes to payment methods; small payments per article (or other media form), passes for unlimited access for a limited time, and advertisement-free surfing on the website, called AdVantage. This last one is especially useful for visitors with an ad blocker. Instead of closing doors for these users, LaterPay makes it possible for them to use the website without advertisements.
Ene thinks that paying online could be more effective: “Payment is usually a bitch.” All three options avoid a long registration process, reducing the chance that visitors go elsewhere. The visitor only pays after 5 Euros’ worth of content has been consumed.
According to Ene, the payment method works for every form of content that is unique and adds something substantive. For example, according to him, the last comment of an American presidential candidate is not enough to convince readers to pay, but accompanied by a historical or political analysis, it is. Videos work especially well with the LaterPay payment method according to Ene. A blogger with around 43,000 users per month made 21,000 EUR in the past year using LaterPay.
Two LaterPay customers explained their experience through email. Mixology is a free magazine, and started offering parts of their articles online for payment as of last year. According to cofounder Helmut Adam, LaterPay was a test for Mixology. “Readers are now used to paid articles on our website.”
“Facebook and Twitter are marketing channels, not online stores. Sell content on your own platform.”
It still showed that it was difficult to combine an offline magazine with online content. “In my opinion, LaterPay works best for digital publishers. We are in the process of integrating our online subscribers into the existing hardcopy magazine subscription model. That is why we will probably install a different software that gives us complete control over the relationships with readers.”
Before subscribing, users still have the fill out the old-fashioned form. For this, the 2-click LaterPay system is not used. Adam admits that he has not considered this possibility within the current options of LaterPay.
In contrast to Mixology, GEO does not offer paid articles. GEO does, however, offer users the option to visit the website ad-free. Daniela von Heyl, Digital Business Director, explains that GEO uses AdVantage from LaterPay and is going to use this on other digital products. “Users of our website GEO.de with an ad blocker can choose to turn this off or buy a day pass from 0.49 EUR, or a week pass for 2.99 EUR, to access the website without advertisements.”
LaterPay also has an advisory branch to help you promote your content. Ene is giving away some free advice to publishers; “Use social media wisely. Facebook and twitter are marketing channels, not online stores. Use social media to attract users to your website, but sell the content on your own platform.”
According to Ene, it is a fact that the future will be about online sales. He points to the info graph from Future Exploration Network, which estimates per country when newspapers (in their current form) will lose their significance. When the internet becomes this important for publishers – and it already is in certain countries, including America – we should know the rules of the online game. “Online everything is about cherry picking and everything has to go super-fast. No one wants to buy a newspaper if they only want to read page 4.”