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Extras for Subscribers, a portfolio piece on transactional value.

Josh Miller
July 30th, 2021 · 5 min read

How might we provide a new way to add value for our loyal readers and attract new subscribers?

  • Timeline: 3 weeks
  • Goals: Design an interactive prototype as a discussion piece to present to the audience engagement team
  • Team: Gannett | Storytelling Studio
  • Role: UX
  • Area of Focus: Design to Prototype

Background

Gannett’s charge for the year of 2021 is that of subscriber acquisition. Extras for subscribers is an exercise focused on showcasing how the Storytelling Studio might test a hypothesis surrounding additional value for our readers as well as clearly articulating the problem and gaining alignment with stakeholders.

At times editorial staff creates additional content that isn’t included in a main article and may be linked out using hyperlinks or call to actions. This isn’t an ideal experience for reader engagmeent; because, it takes an audience member out of the main article experience. The purpose of extra pieces is to provide context and anscilary information about a story for audiences. However, these extra pieces are often overlooked by our scan-to-read audience. The opportunity lies in the monetization of these extra features while simultaneously elevating a singular story’s perceived higher value.

Questions, Assumptions, and Potential Pitfalls

Assumptions:

  • What does it mean to provide an enhanced experience?
  • Based on current reader feedback and behaviors will our readers find additional content valuable?
  • If yes, how might we convey the value of enhanced stories network-wide?
  • Once implemented, how might we test our hypothesis efficiently and effectively gathering appropriate qualitative and quantitative data with multiple content types?

Additional questions to answer include:

  • What does it mean to introduce a new acquisition model to the editorial process?
  • How is that conveyed alongside the existing paywall and meter models?

Designing within the User Flow & Consumer Funnel

Looking at the user flow and our consumer funnel it appears that our recurring audience would be the target for this case study.

Recurring readers are already exposed to the USA Today Network brand and visit our site at least a couple of times a week. By Jakob’s UX Law where users will transfer expectations they have built around one familiar product to another that appears similar, we can capitalize on their mental model of a paywall as well as improve upon the experience. Product just launched a new payment page too which will be an added benefit to our experience for the moment as our reader will most likely have to leave our story to sign up if not already. One way we might capitalize on our reader’s framing effect bias is by presenting the decision to unlock these features with options based on whether the options are presented with positive or negative connotations; e.g. as a loss or as a gain. The framing effect states that people tend to avoid risk when a positive frame is presented but seek risks when a negative frame is presented. We might also be able to introduce a loss aversion mechanism where we let readers try out a new feature before investing in it.

There are three current monetization models and this could be an adaptation to existing freemium or metered ones. What are the biggest challenges with thinking about different monetization models and how a reader might unlock a piece of an article is the ethics surrounding a story. Much of the contact that is written in our J journalism framework has civic value that it’s beneficial for everyone who comes across it. So, there’s not only the challenge of Will editorial use this and they find it valuable but also are we taking away essential information from the readers that might benefit them? Not only that but what does it mean to introduce a new business model to the editorial process and how is that conveyed alongside existing paywall and meter models?

An open ended prototype to spark conversation with the audience engagement team was the deliverable

Check out the prototype here

The prototype is a maximalist design consisting of a banner that appears upon first load, contextual labeling next to the headline, and an ever present on scroll actionable button that would trigger additional slideover content that could be unlocked. Each element is placed according to the cadence that we know scroll where scroll drops off; thus, signaling to the more casual reader that there is additional value and/or the potential to unlock more content should they choose to. In doing all of us we could provide multiple touch points for the reader within one the one article experience. Additional states of the article prototype include the reader not being signed in and are not registered.

What are the biggest challenges with thinking about different monetization models and how a reader might unlock a piece of an article is the ethics surrounding a story. Much of the contact that is written in our J journalism framework has civic value that it’s beneficial for everyone who comes across it. So, there’s not only the challenge of Will editorial use this and they find it valuable but also are we taking away essential information from the readers that might benefit them?

Not only that but what does it mean to introduce a new business model to the editorial process and how is that conveyed alongside existing paywall and meter models?

At the time, we have three existing subscription models and payment scales: Free, Metered, and Subscriber Only. We consider our most valuable reporting to reside in the exclusive content surrounding hot button topics, interviews, and investigations. This content typically requires a greater amount of time to create and thus provides deeper meaning to said topics for our audience. One example might be the Poisoned Cities series which took reporting staff two years to accumulate photos, knowledge, and interviews to then write the extensive four-part series. In light of this, we’ll define an enhanced experience as any story that includes features which help the reader go deeper. Potential pitfalls of this model are that we’ll give away too much information to the reader devaluing the extra content eventually leading to them not wanting the extra features. Secondly, we might need technological upgrades and new methods of payment—i.e. inline registration without leaving a story. Looking ahead at solutions, we’ll present the ideal experience alongside the existing model(s).

Onto Solutions

First, we’ll signal to the reader this story is an enhanced experience. At this stage the reader is just joining us and deciding if they want to continue their investment in the story. We already can provide labeling with stories from the I-Team and other xtensive series. Related information about visual queuing to our audience can be find in Product UX’s research of Opinion labeling. An enhanced experience as any story that includes features which help the reader go deeper.

For consideration Extras include: Exclusive video content Reporting notebook features Audio versions of stories Anything else related to behind the scenes coverage

From here, if a reader is registered, we might signal them to continue to sign up… For subscribers, we’ll add a label to items also reinforcing the added value of the features they’re receiving. For the offering, we’ll split the demonstrations into two segments of offering a bundle of features as well as just offering one feature to unlock.

In case you missed it ➔ Check out the prototype here


Thanks for reading! Get in touch 👉🏻 joshua@jshmllr.com

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