The most persuasive argument that will lead readers to take out their credit cards and pay is the publication’s value proposition and its associated content. However seldomly this argument is highlighted, its importance is paramount in the conversion funnel.

Even the best algorithm from machine learning will turn out to be utterly helpless if you don’t have contents and features correlated to a clear and set value proposition that will enable you to form a lasting relationship with your readers.

This said - and even though contents remain the main reason for subscription - the complexity of the user journey, the number of information asked for, the lack of payment methods or the difficulty to unsubscribe are obstacles preventing you to turn your readers into subscribers.

That’s what our series of content “From content to subscription to... content, how many touchpoints?” is all about - understanding very precisely the number of clicks, scroll, necessary information and time spent to eventually access paid content.

In this series of articles, we’ll focus on conversion funnels of editorial publishers (listed below). We’ll focus on publications, but not exclusively on them.


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Today: The Athletic!

TL;DR You can find below the journey of a reader wishing to read several articles on the website of The Athletic (desktop):

  • 4 clicks are needed to subscribe and return to content;
  • no scroll is needed to see the subscription form in its entirety;
  • 4 fields are required to create an account;
  • 2 payment methods are available (credit card or Paypal).

Here is the reader’s journey 👇 (we will follow it together step by step):

Step by step now…

Step 1: The reader wishes to read an article but is stopped by a paywall requiring their subscription

The reader wishes to read a premium article on the website of The Athletic but is blocked by a paywall. The reader can access the beginning of the article but the paywall is hiding the rest. The paywall is completely visible so that no scroll is needed to see in its entirety. The website suggests to subscribe: “full access, no ads”.

Step 2: Creation of an account

If the reader wishes to pay by credit card for their subscription, then they have to create an account and choose between:

  • Registering with their Google account
  • Or registering with another email address

If the reader chooses Paypal as a payment method, then they can subscribe without creating an account. This makes the reader’s journey easier.

We opt for the credit card option and register via our Google account. We are not asked for our first and last name and email address, because our email address is saved in the browser.

Step 3: Payment

A single subscription offer is available to the reader. It’s a special offer: 1$ per month instead of 7.99$ per month cancellable anytime. The reader is requested to fill in their credit card details. Yet they can still switch to PayPal if they wish to.

Step 4: Payment validation and confirmation of order

The payment is validated but the reader doesn’t have a confirmation of order. They are redirected directly on the article they were reading before subscribing.

An email is then sent to the reader to confirm their subscription.

The reader can change the language of the website from English to French, for instance. In the French version of The Athletic, even the name of the publication itself is translated: The Athletic becomes Athlétique for French readers.

That’s it, we’ve subscribed to The Athletic and were able to read our article!

To sum it up, here are all the steps to read the article:

  • 4 clicks are needed to subscribe and return to content;
  • no scroll is needed to see the subscription form in its entirety;
  • 4 fields are required to create an account;
  • 2 payment methods are available (credit card and Paypal).

What about mobile devices?

The same subscription journey - same number of clicks and same options.