HN+: successful way to paid content

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Economia, one of the biggest media houses in the Czech Republic, was like many others struggling with introducing the paid online content. Read how we helped them overcome it and implement a successful model in an interview with Vladimír Piskáček, former Editorial Director of Economia.

New business opportunities search in content monetisation, B2B media services, investments

Verification and quantification of the ideas and opportunities potential

Establishment of innovation leadership and culture of experimentation

We just finished a project called Paid content. What was it about? What was the goal of the project?

The goal of the project was to find a solution to problems that our entire industry has been facing for a long time – decreasing interest in print media, migration of readers to online and falling revenues from advertising that media houses traditionally relied on. The other goal was to bring new product and services concepts that would be in strong synergy with our core business but also had potential to become a new source of income.

How did the project go?

It had two phases – in the first one we aggregated existing ideas and created new ones as to how we could approach paid content and what direction to take when developing new products. We came up with a 4 stream innovation strategy – paid content, redesign of one of our key journals, and new product and services in two completely new areas.
In the second phase we transformed the project into a program with 4 independent teams working to identify concepts, test ideas, validate customer interest and needs and finally prepare the implementation. And we have even launched one of the projects on the market as part of this phase.

How did it go? What was the result and are you satisfied with it?

Our cooperation brought more than one result. Among the most important ones is launching the HN+ product – purely digital subscription on our online news portal We basically deployed hard paywall on previously free content in order to get more subscribers. Newspapers and other media around the world, including us, have been trying to successfully implement this mechanism for a while now.

However, the result of these attempts is usually a dramatic drop in web traffic and thus advertising revenue. This is what happened to us when we tried implementing a hard paywall in the past. It led to softening the rules to unlock the articles which made most of the content free and readers did not understand why the same content is sometimes paid and sometimes free. We knew this was not a good approach. With the help of Direct People we have been able to design a new product and hard paywall and launch it in just one month. I believe we were successful – in three months from the launch we doubled the number of online subscribers while more or less retaining the web traffic. After seven months we grew the base to 13 000 subscribers and Hospodařské noviny thus became the unmatched leader on the Czech market. On top of that the profit from this product significantly supplemented the overall financial results of Economia.

Another result is concrete suggestions in terms of changes to existing products and services as well as new concepts ready for production and MVP launch. From dozens of ideas at the beginning we were able to select the most interesting ones for further development using various methods of testing and market verification. As a result we changed the pricing of existing services which immediately impacted our income in a positive way. Other ideas concern new products and services.

What is next? Will the project continue?

We now work on further development and optimization of HN+ and some other project results internally.

What did the cooperation give you?

Direct People brought a new and fresh point of view on our industry. They showed us new processes and approaches to product and services development and most importantly capacities and speed thanks to which we were able to do an enormous amount of work and launch a new product in a really short time. Thanks to Direct People we started to base our decisions primarily on actual market data and customer needs rather than views and opinions of individual managers.

What do you think about our cooperation?

I was personally very satisfied with it. It was tough and demanding work but it paid off – it brought a lot of ideas that we can work with and implement in the next few months – on our own or in cooperation with Direct People.

Would you recommend us to other companies?

Yes. Getting external help brings a new point of view and ideas as well as speed in terms of implementation.

About Economia

Economia is one of the biggest media houses in the Czech Republic, publishing daily Hospodářské noviny, weekly Ekonom and Respekt and many other print and digital titles. They operate news servers and Aktuálně.cz, freemail portals and topical websites such as Ž and Vaření.cz. They are also increasingly active in video news and content in cooperation with DVTV.