Breaking down the Dish’s metered paywall: nag, but things are just fine

Over at paidContent, Laura Hazard Owen had an interesting post about how Andrew Sullivan’s new site, the Dish, is doing with its new metered paywall. The post was based on Sullivan’s own post, where he gives a nice amount of detail on the current state of affairs.

Dish Subscriber Meter Distribution

According to Sullivan (and the chart above from his post), the majority of the site’s visitors — 683,000 — came and went, not clicking on a story (the trigger for starting the paywall metering).

That’s a 75 percent bounce rate, which is a bit high. But given how Sullivan’s site has been getting much of its traffic due to it being a part of the news (for its paywall) as much as delivering the news, this doesn’t surprise me.

Of the 224,000 or so who have started the meter (meaning they clicked on an article to read), it’s a fairly normal distribution, with most folks clicking once or twice and approximately 7,000 — or 3 percent — clicking through for seven “read-ons” (Sullivan’s term).

This means 3 percent maxed out the free reads for the month, and if you include those that bounced from the site without a read-on, that’s less than 1 percent.

Less than 1 percent max out the meter monthly? Terrible, right?

I don’t think so. Given that all that Sullivan has really done is write one or two posts to ask for some money, I would suggest he’s doing fairly well, particularly given that he’s already hit two-thirds of his own self-prescribed target of $900,000 for the year.

Consider that the Boston Globe only reached 28,000 subscribers after having a paywall for only two years, with a much larger readership. Other traditional sites have done even worse.

Laura suggests a few things Sullivan can do to goose sales, one of which is traditional marketing (aka nagging) and the other two are what I would consider adjustments to the model.

He needs to start with basic marketing block and tackle, including email and social marketing campaigns. As far as adjusting the model, I’d hold off just yet. Lowering the meter would send the wrong signal, particularly since he’s two-thirds of the way to his target with only about one-sixth of the clock burned up.

The RSS feed suggestion is an interesting one, but one I’d suggest waiting on as well.

What I would suggest for Sullivan is possibly considering additional premium access tiers, such as access to special online events or reports, for an even higher subscription rate. Those types of higher-tier offerings would tap into Sullivan’s “1,000 true fans” while not alienating casual subscribers.

And of course, I’d suggest he market — or nag — more.