The Guardian Turns to First-Party Data and Registration Wall For Financial Stability

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

The takeaways

  • The feature, first tested with select Guardian articles last December, was reintroduced in April, allowing voluntary subscribers increased access and special offers.
  • The service provides the Guardian with first-party insights into user preferences, engagement and retention, and enables tailored advertising.
  • The move comes as digital subscription trends increase during the pandemic.

Testing the wall

The website of the Guardian newspaper is testing a registration wall feature on its audience with the aim of refining its products and aiming relevant advertisements at its readership. The registration wall is non-compulsory, as signified by a “Not Now” tab, and is aimed at gathering first-party data from readers who consent to the use of their data by creating user accounts. The move has been taken to secure the financial stability of the Guardian, which makes its online income through revenue streams like advertising, subscriptions and voluntary donations, rather than a paywall or premium content.

The publisher first tested its registration wall last December and began another one in April. Signed-in users can access certain privileges, from access to editorial newsletters to commenting, special offers and discounts. By gathering this first-party data, the Guardian can better understand the behaviors and preferences of its website’s users and tailor their experiences accordingly. Through this, they aim to improve user retention, increase subscriptions and strengthen advertising revenue through higher premium charges. 

More publishers ditch third-party data

The adoption of a registration wall is in line with other recent media house policies and also forms part of the shift in publishing from third-party data to first in response to internet privacy law changes. The New York Times has announced that it will phase out the use of third-party cookies from the creation of targeted ads and has adopted a registration wall over a paywall as part of the subscription journey and variations have also been adopted at publishers like Le Monde. In each case, the reader is encouraged to create an account based on the amount of content accessed, rather than allowed access to a limited number for free before being asked to subscribe.

Analysis from subscription platform Piano shows that in the third week of May, digital subscriptions in Europe increased by 85% and 25% in the U.S., compared to the weekly average in January and February. This is partially attributed to coronavirus coverage; the Guardian itself hosts dedicated pages gathering global news on the pandemic and internal analysis states that its global unique browser numbers reached 366 million in March, from February’s record of 191 million. Website data analysis shows a bounce in the Guardian’s traffic during March and April, although it has begun to taper off as part of a general trend amongst news sites. The Guardian anticipates securing 2 million paying supporters by 2022.

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