Play­wall ins­tead of Paywall

Start­up Snaque enab­les
pre­mi­um con­tent without a paywall

Paid con­tent is the pre­do­mi­nant topic in the publi­shing indus­try – and right­ly so. For far too long, media com­pa­nies have reli­ed sole­ly on reach and free con­tent on the web. Whe­ther lea­ding media or regio­nal news por­tals: pay­walls have now been estab­lis­hed almost ever­y­whe­re, allowing only regis­tered and paying users to read arti­cles. Has this sol­ved the big ques­ti­on about the mone­ti­sa­ti­on of jour­na­listic con­tent? Only part­ly. The rising sub­scrip­ti­on figu­res of recent years may have shown, on the one hand, that the media com­pa­nies are on the right track, but, on the other hand, they quick­ly came back down to earth after the steep rise during the Covid-19 pan­de­mic. The basic pro­blem is that sub­scrip­ti­ons alo­ne are not enough to meet the demand of the various rea­ders. Only about two per cent of online rea­ders are per­sua­ded to take out a sub­scrip­ti­on. Nine­ty-eight per cent of rea­ders jump off at the pay­wall. So, the­re is a big gap bet­ween sub­scrip­ti­on users and casu­al rea­ders. The Media­Tech Hub start-up Snaque is now clo­sing this gap with a new soft­ware. Snaque has crea­ted a pay­wall exten­si­on that allows rea­ders to be able to read pre­mi­um con­tent without a sub­scrip­ti­on. This can be done through a short inter­ac­tion with brand con­tent pla­ced in front of the content.

Snaque was foun­ded by the tech PR expert Kat­ja Wal­dor and soft­ware deve­lo­per Hen­ning Till­mann. Their idea for a pay­wall alter­na­ti­ve also con­vin­ced the jury of the Media Foun­ders Pro­gram­me, the Media Inno­va­ti­on Cen­ter (MIZ) in Babels­berg, and they have sin­ce been seam­less­ly inte­gra­ted into the Media­Tech Hub Accelerator. 

Swi­ping three times unlocks an article

Once Snaque has been inte­gra­ted as a simp­le wid­get on the publis­hers’ web­sites, users are now pre­sen­ted with ano­t­her opti­on along­side the usu­al pay­wall ver­si­ons with a sub­scrip­ti­on model or 30-day tri­al ver­si­on. The idea behind this is qui­te simp­le: rea­ders inter­act with brand con­tent in the form of a short sur­vey which is a kind of digi­tal sales pitch. The arti­cle can then be acti­va­ted and read, and coun­ter-finan­ced by the adver­ti­sers. The adver­ti­sers are then free to design the so-cal­led “Snaque Bars” con­sis­ting of ques­ti­ons as well as images and logos. A tra­vel com­pa­ny, for examp­le, could ask rea­ders about their tra­vel pre­fe­ren­ces: “Do you like city breaks?”, whe­reu­pon the rea­der can eit­her swi­pe in one direc­tion for ‘Yes’ and in the other direc­tion for ‘No’. The par­ti­cu­lar respon­se is then fol­lo­wed by ano­t­her ques­ti­on such as “Do you like tra­vel­ling by pla­ne?” or “Is nice accom­mo­da­ti­on important for you?”, which refer to the pre­vious ans­wers. After two or three swi­pes, a spe­cial­ly tailo­red offer will be pre­sen­ted to the rea­der like a city break to Barcelona. 

“It’s often fla­shing and fli­cke­ring ever­y­whe­re on web­sites. So, we asked our­sel­ves: who is actual­ly still noti­cing this and real­ly cli­cking? That’s why we crea­ted Snaque as a model whe­re the rea­ders can inter­act. We ask them about their inte­rests and can then pre­sent a tar­ge­ted offer,” Kat­ja Wal­dor explains.

Users only have to ans­wer a few ques­ti­ons if they want to access the arti­cle quick­ly and easi­ly. For publis­hers, it has the advan­ta­ge that they can addi­tio­nal­ly mone­ti­se their con­tent, and adver­ti­sers place ads that are noti­ced and gene­ra­te real inter­ac­tion. Snaque achie­ves click-through rates aver­aging 15 per cent with its per­so­na­li­sed sales pitch-based ad for­mat. By com­pa­ri­son, ordi­na­ry ban­ner adver­ti­sing only reaches click-through rates of bet­ween 1–3 per cent. The adver­ti­sing format’s inter­ac­tion or dwell time is also 22 seconds on average. 

Cross-sys­tem inte­gra­ti­on of the widget

The hand­ling for the publis­hers is very simp­le: the wid­get is con­nec­ted via API to eit­her the publis­hers’ con­tent manage­ment or pay­wall sys­tem. The publis­hers can deci­de for them­sel­ves which group of rea­ders should be given access to the Snaque Play­wall but­ton. Seg­ment-spe­ci­fic access based on the publisher’s own data is the key­word here. Snaque its­elf does not collect any per­so­nal data and does not set any coo­kies. The ads can be crea­ted in the software’s own con­tent edi­tor, and images and logos added by drag and drop. The com­ple­te per­for­mance (“Who acti­va­tes the arti­cles and when?”) is pos­si­ble becau­se the wid­get is inte­gra­ted into the publis­hers’ pay­wall sys­tems. But Snaque can its­elf also be used as a pay­wall if one doesn’t exist. Reach por­tals that aim to gene­ra­te as many clicks as pos­si­ble with their con­tent and thus make it free­ly acces­si­ble, can, for examp­le, intro­du­ce a small pay­wall for more exten­si­ve arti­cles and deli­ver tar­ge­ted advertising. 

“We are not com­pe­ting with the sub­scrip­ti­on model,” Wal­dor makes clear. “We are merely sup­ple­men­ting paid con­tent with ano­t­her offe­ring and thus clo­sing a gap.” 

Easy access to infor­ma­ti­on hel­ps pre­vent fake news

And this gap is not only being clo­sed in order to achie­ve user-friend­ly read access, but also as a way of gua­ran­te­eing free access to well-rese­ar­ched and pre­sen­ted infor­ma­ti­on in times of fake news. The most important infor­ma­ti­on is now often hid­den behind pay­walls, while mis­in­for­ma­ti­on is free­ly acces­si­ble throughout the Inter­net and is even being deli­ber­ate­ly distributed. 

One con­cern that the Snaque team can dis­pel for the media com­pa­nies is that of decli­ning sub­scrip­ti­ons. “The publis­hers have com­ple­te con­trol over how often they use Snaque,” says Kat­ja Wal­dor. On the one hand, they can con­trol when Snaque is pla­ced in front of an arti­cle, and, on the other, the use of Snaque at the Säch­si­sche Zei­tung has shown that users able through indi­vi­du­al arti­cles to look more often behind the pay­wall are sub­se­quent­ly more likely to take out a sub­scrip­ti­on. The pro­ba­bi­li­ty here has incre­a­sed by seven­fold. The posi­ti­ve user expe­ri­ence makes it pos­si­ble to keep rea­ders in the sales fun­nel much lon­ger for a subscription. 

The respon­se from wit­hin the indus­try has been very posi­ti­ve sin­ce the offi­cial mar­ket launch: many media com­pa­nies have shown inte­rest in inte­gra­ting Snaque thanks to the posi­ti­ve coverage in rele­vant tra­de publi­ca­ti­ons and some of them will be adding a play­wall to their pay­wall at the begin­ning of the New Year. Snaque has won over spe­cia­list publis­hers, natio­nal and regio­nal publis­hers ali­ke and shows how the­re is a re-think under­way on the mone­ti­sa­ti­on of jour­na­listic content. 

Pho­to Credit: Domi­nik Butzmann

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.