Many content publishers looking for new revenue streams have experimented with paywalls, with mixed success.
But if you’ve got content that people are willing to pay for, paywalls and other registration gateways can work very well indeed.
“The first challenge is to build premium content … it has to be very unique,” says Gilles Domartini, chief executive and founder of Amsterdam-based Cleeng, a web service provider that helps publishers put up paywalls or registration gateways around their content. “The reason publishers today are struggling is that news is very much a commodity.”
VentureBeat worked with Cleeng early in 2012 to present a five-question registration form to readers before letting them watch a live video webinar. (Disclosure: Cleeng provided the service to us for free so that we could review it.) “By deploying the Cleeng solution, the conversion rates from the webinar were much higher than normal, and completion rates for the registration form were close to 100 percent,” VentureBeat’s director of marketing and ad operations Garrett McCullum told me.
In addition to video, Cleeng can also provide paywall-restricted access to HTML pages, PDF files, and a variety of other content — and it can do so on a wide range of platforms, including HTML5-based mobile websites.
One of Cleeng’s selling points is the simplicity of its user interface, a design aesthetic that, Domartini says, stems from his experience working for Apple. He ran the Apple Online Store in Europe from 2001-2006.
“I really saw the growth of iTunes,” Domartini said. “We saw how important it was to have a simple and straightforward user experience.”
So when he came to start Cleeng, he said, “we started from the user standpoint and thought, what do we need to do to have a technology that would work on any device, for any content, and it would ‘just work,’ from the user perspective.”
Cleeng integrates with WordPress (as a plugin). Since VentureBeat runs on WordPress.com, which restricts certain plugins, we ran into some technical speedbumps and didn’t have time to integrate the service deeply into our site, but we were able to use the service. Once installed, it makes it possible to restrict access to any page, post, or section of the site. VentureBeat used it to provide gated access to a webinar page with a live video stream.
The company is currently working with hundreds of publishers, including very large ones such as Epicurious, Lucky Magazine, and the iStrategy conference in the U.S., and LaTribune and GoPress in Europe.
Cleeng also provides content paywall services to video publishing platforms, including Dailymotion, Brightcove, and Livestream.
Cleeng was founded in 2011 and currently has 12 employees. So far it has been funded through investments by the company’s founders.
Paywall photo: Shutterstock
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