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Paywall success in rural West Virginia


We often hear that local newspapers can’t make revenue from digital. Sure, it works for the NYTimes, but not for a small town or regional outlet.

Let’s explore an example: a local newspaper in rural West Virginia.

The Welch News in West Virginia has a circulation size of about 2500 and around 2000 people in the town. Before January 2020, the Welch News was focused on their print product–a great paper by the way.

We’ve been working with the Welch News Publisher Melissa Nester for about a year or so on a digital strategy. We wanted the entry cost to having a full-fledge digital paywall to be as low as possible.

On January 28th, 2020, we launched a digital paywall website based in WordPress.

In a matter of 10 days, the Welch News had 100 new subscribers.

Within 3 months, that number jumped to nearly 200 overall subscribers.

Not only did people from within the community subscribe, but so did people from all over the United States. The digital membership model allows Welch to expand beyond the perimeter of McDowell County, WV and connect with people all over the country.

So, why is this working for them? For one, the Welch News has a healthy Facebook following. Leveraging that audience has been crucial in growing their memberships.

Also, posting virtually everything from the newspaper to the website on a regular basis keeps the audience around.

And finally, damn good journalism. We often overlook it. Sure, you can test out super fast websites with different colors and buttons and placements, but at the end of the day, people want solid reporting on issues that they care about.

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