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The road to paid journalism: how big data can help you build a successful paywall

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ICEEfest 2016 showed us how the Global Content Kings (like CNN, Euronews, BBC and Eurosport) manage to produce good & quality content, from the editorial point of view. In a session dedicated to the publishers, the festival also taught us about the Science Behind Great Content, and how journalism can be sustainable financially.


Director of Product Development and Data Science Services @ Mather Economics, Arvid Tchivzhel (foto) showed us the latest solutions to common challenges that publishers have, such as ad blockers & low CPM’s, a shrinking print subscriber base, and competition from disruptive technologies.

Yes it’s difficult, yes media is in some way struggling. But I think it’s nothing new that hasn’t happened in other industries“, said Arvid Tchivzhel at the beginning of his presentation @ ICEEfest, held on Innovation Stage 2.


Working for Mather Economics since December 2008, one of Arvid’s tasks is to oversee the analytics practice for clients in the publishing sector

  • Only 0.06% of users who hit a paywall convert to paid users.

That’s why Arvid believes that “knowing where your revenues come from, and what articles and authors are driving it, can help you figure out what to put behind the paywall and what to leave open“.

About DATA

And because “big data is everywhere“, Arvid presented some points from Mather Economics’ vision about its use in the publishing industry.


  • it’s not about collecting data, it’s about using it in the right way
  • use data instead of gut feeling to make decisions,
  • big data is only relevant when it is actionable and can be monetized
  • test and measure everything


On average, 35% of visitors don’t actually see an ad during their session. However, this is not always due to an ad blocker.


Either the page loads too slowly, and the user clicks away or the user might have an older browser. One solution is to give options: a paywall or a registration wall. The registration wall is often overlooked as a first step to exchange value with the user.

Find a way in which the users give you their email or some kind of personal data in exchange for some free content“, concluded Arvid.


After you collect all the data, it’s essential to use it correctly. Knowing as much as possible about your audience is the foundation of your paywall.


 Audience metrics identify overall engagement trends and averages:

  • anonymous users spend the least time on site but scroll furthest down the page
  • print subscribers scroll fastest through articles
  • digital-only subscribers index high on volume (visits, days, impressions, ad revenue)
  • registered users spend the most time per visit

This is the kind of information that will help you find solutions for each category of users that’s visiting your website.

Watch the complete presentation of Arvid Tchivzhel @ ICEEfest below:

About Mather Economics

  • more than 500 media and non-media clients
  • managing more than $4 billion in revenue annually and processing data on over 30 million subscribers each week
  • engage with more than 75% of the top 100 newspapers in the US and 60% of the top 200.


Mather Economics is a global consulting firm that applies proprietary analytical tools and hands-on expertise to help businesses develop and implement pricing strategies that maximize operating margins, grow revenue and improve customer loyalty.

With 3,350 delegates, 137 speakers and more than 60 hours of keynotes and presentations, ICEEfestInteractive Central and Eastern Europe Festival – doubled the number of participants in the past two years.




iCEE.news is the publishing platform of iCEE family, formed by iCEE.fest (the main festival, taking place each June in Bucharest, Romania), iCEE.health (our satelite event covering eHealth), iCEE.academy (our e-learning platform), and iCEE.news.

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