These days, nearly every digital publisher utilizes some kind of reader revenue strategy, but when Jessica Lessin quit her Wall Street Journal job and launched The Information in 2013, digital subscriptions were still a novel concept. At that time, the paywalls that existed were usually metered, but Jessica was among the first to place her website’s entire library of content behind a hard paywall. If you wanted access to any of its articles, you needed to fork over up to $400 a year for the privilege.
In our interview, I asked Jessica about why she chose that model, how her journalists compete with much larger publishers for scoops, and what marketing strategies drive the most paid conversions.
To listen to the interview, subscribe to The Business of Content on your favorite podcast player. If you scroll down you’ll also find some transcribed highlights from the interview.
Back in 2013, most in the media weren’t sure yet whether consumers would pay for digital news. Sure, The New York Times had seen some success, but it was nowhere near the subscription behemoth it is today. Most assumed that you still needed to utilize some kind of freemium model. But Lessin never hesitated in locking nearly all of The Information’s content behind a hard paywall. “It was very core to what we were trying to do, which was to publish journalism and serve our readers with news that was worth paying for — that had differentiated value. And I thought, at the time, that if you're a publisher and experimenting with a blended business model, you can muddy that very clear editorial objective.”