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.

Today: The New York Times!

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

·       10 clicks are needed to subscribe and return to content;

·       2 scrolls are needed to see the payment form in its entirety and to log in;

·       2 required fields (email address and password);

·       2 payment methods (card or Paypal).


Step by step.

1/ The first “wall”: creating an account

We are able to read the first article of our interest without coming across any forms of digital walls, but then have to either create a free account or subscribe to read on. We choose the free option registering an email address... + 1 click

...and creating a password. +1 click

Then instead of being redirected towards the article of our choice, we are:

1/ First asked if we want to subscribe now or if wish to continue without subscribing (we opt for the last). + 1 click

2/ Then led to subscribe to newsletters. +2 clicks

The first newsletter is a Morning Daily briefing aimed at “international readers” and more precisely Europeans. From our location data, the NYT has understood that we were European readers and personalised the choice of newsletters accordingly.

The second screen invites us to choose many newsletters. We opt for the “maybe later” option.

Then, instead of coming back to our article, another screen suggests that we register our mobile number and “start reading on the app”. Here again, it is worth noticing the French flag and “+33” preselected for us which indicates their knowledge of our current location. We opt for the “no, thanks, take me back to reading” option.

We are therefore redirected to the article we had been reading. Then we browse the website to read some more.

2/ The real “wall”: the paywall

Yet, after reading several articles we are stopped again, this time by a real paywall. The pop-up hiding the article reads that subscribing allows us to keep on reading without being interrupted. This seems to suggest that we could opt for another option with which we could read on while being interrupted from time to time. Yet to read the article to the end, there is now no way but to subscribe. And so, we subscribe.

When clicking on the ‘subscribe now’ button, we are directed to another page.

As we already created a free account, they “welcome [us] back” and ask us to log in. We don’t have to choose between subscription offers – the basic digital access seems to be the only option available. The contents of the offer are briefly detailed factually. Then information relative to the payment is given.

Again, thanks to the data they collected when we first browsed the website, they are aware of our location and it is worth noticing that the price we are asked to pay stands in euros and not in dollars (or other currencies). + 1 scroll needed to log in

After having logged in, we are directed to the payment page. Two payment methods are available: credit card or PayPal Payer. One scroll is needed to click on “purchase subscription”.

Though already logged in, we are asked to confirm our password. +1 click

We then get an order summary and are immediately offered an upgrade. We click on the discrete grey button “Continue without All Access”. + 1 click

Then we are asked again to choose newsletters. Once more, we opt for the “maybe later”. + 1 click

Same goes for the app. We click on the “no thanks, take me back to reading”. + 1 click

Except this time, we aren’t redirected to our article but to the home page. +1 click

We find the article we wanted to read. +1 click

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

Please be aware that:

As we didn’t subscribe directly but first registered and then subscribed, we came across the pages about the newsletter and the invitation to download the app twice. This led us to more clicks (+2) than a direct subscriber would have had to make. Therefore, in our calculation of clicks to sum up the conversion process, we counted the number of clicks needed to subscribe directly. However, we first chose to register to read on and then to subscribe only when there was no other reading option, because many readers would have had the same reaction.

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

·       10 clicks are needed to subscribe and return to content:

2 clicks to register an email and create a password, 2 clicks to validate the payment and confirm the password and 1 click to go to the next screen and 2 clicks to subscribe to newsletters, then 1 click to go past the “download the app” screen and 2 to return to the article;

·      2 scrolls are needed to see the payment form in its entirety and to log in when we are “welcomed back” (but no scroll needed to see the subscription form in its entirety);

·       2 required fields (email address and password);

·       2 payment methods (card or Paypal).

What about mobile devices?

The same subscription journey.

Laure Kesler