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Press+, RR Donnelley's metered paid digital content service, conducted a recent study that looked at how daily content volume on some of its customer sites impacted the number of subscription sales. The findings indicate that higher-volume postings on a daily frequency led to significantly higher sales in the first month and on an ongoing basis.
The study isolated four mid-market newspaper sites that each had about about one million monthly uniques, but varying content posting volumes ranging from 21 daily stories to 82 daily stories.
According to the results, the site with 82 daily postings had first-month subscription sales of about $36,000, while the site with 21 daily postings had first-month sales of less than $400. Two more sites that posted 50 and 55 stories each day, recorded $3,000 and $3,100 in sales in the first month, respectively.
The content-frequency theory played out beyond that first month as well. The site with the 82 daily stories sold 10 times as many subscriptions per month as the site with 50 stories per day and 15 times as many subscriptions as the site that averaged 20 stories per day.
Press+ is continuing its exploration of factors that influence use and sales, but content frequency is an early finding that reveals a direct impact on revenues. Marketing messages, for example, were not identical across these four publishers.
Nevertheless, content frequency is one factor that can be overlooked in favor of a publisher's sense of its value or of visitor traffic. Indeed, Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of MIT's Technology Review, commented in a June post unrelated to this study that one of the reasons the brand ditched its early online paid content efforts was because he felt like TR's volume of content was not justifying the cost. "My working hypothesis about why our porous paywall failed? We don’t publish so much that a threshold irritates enough readers," said Pontin.
"These early data support our belief that meaningful sales can be achieved regardless of he size of a community or the traffic on its site—as long as the content offering is strong. But the converse is also true," says Press+ co-founder Gordon Crovitz in a statement.
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