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Paywall case study: Rasmussen Reports

By: Peter Keung | June 13, 2013 | Case study

Electronic media company Rasmussen Reports is best known for their US elections polling, but they do public opinion polling on a wide variety of topics, releasing new poll results on its website daily. Their multi-tier paywall subscription system has successfully helped them generate website revenue at different levels of user engagement.

Paywall outline

There are 3 subscription levels on the Rasmussen Reports website:

  • Public: access to all top story headlines, daily presidential tracking poll, commentary, daily update e-newsletters
  • Rasmussen Reader: full access to all current articles
  • Rasmussen Platinum: detailed demographic breakdown of poll results, preview of upcoming polls, access to full article archive

The paywall is implemented completely within the eZ Publish content management system, with an integration with an external payment processor.

Editors can mark whether and article is private or public with a simple dropdown list.

Selecting an article's object state

Articles available only to Platinum users are saved in a distinct section of the site.

From awareness to signing up

Throughout the site, there are banners indicating to users that they can sign up for an account to get a more enriched site experience.

Article subscription banners

There are multiple entry points to the sign-up process within articles, on the homepage, in sidebars, and in the main navigation.  A/B testing has helped us determine the most useful messaging.

Different messaging is shown to different users; for example, public users see this banner:

Rasmussen Reader banner

... whereas Rasmussen Reader subscribers sees this banner:

Platinum banner

Once users start the sign-up process, they are presented with two tiers, each with monthly and yearly options:

Registration options

Promotions and trials are periodically run via a promo code system.  Promo codes are easily defined in INI files where basic settings such as expiry date and trial period can be set:

[Promocode-election2012]
Description=Yearly subscription through December 2012
TrialPeriod=72
InitialPrice=24.95
ExpSubscribe=31-10-2011
ExpRenew=31-10-2011
ExpirationDate=01-01-2012

Managing accounts

We use Payflow Pro to manage recurring payments and payment information (so that we don't have to store any credit card information on the site itself), while we manage all other elements within eZ Publish: the shopping cart, pricing, users and user groups, and the permission system. Key subscription information is stored within the eZ Publish user account, including the account expiration date, a history of all account changes, and the Payflow Pro profile ID.

For site users, they can manage their account within the familiar site interface:

Account management interface

Here, they can renew their account, update their login information, update their credit card information, cancel their account, and manage various site notifications.

Behind the scenes, we have a handful of maintenance scripts to accomplish the following:

  • Notify users of upcoming subscription expiry
  • Expire users
  • Upgrade and downgrade user accounts
  • Cancel and re-open accounts
  • Check Payflow Pro for failed payments and expired credit cards

Video presentation

This case study was part of the eZ Sessions #7 video presentation. Watch it below:

 

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