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Paywall success in rural West Virginia

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Building a digital subscription paywall-based news website for a news publisher based in rural West Virginia, may not sound like a great idea. With limited broadband access and spotty cell service at best, you’d likely deem this region as not exactly primed for digital subscription success.

Let’s explore the Welch News: a local newspaper in rural West Virginia.

The Welch News in McDowell, County, West Virginia has a circulation size of about 2500 and around 2000 people in the town. Before January 2020, the Welch News was solely 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 that have ties to Welch.

Why is this working for them?

The Welch News has a healthy Facebook following and is very much engaged with their community posting all content to their website and sharing links on Facebook. Leveraging their Facebook audience has been crucial in growing their subscribers.

In addition, their subscription levels are flexible, including trial-based plans and digital + print options.

And finally, they are committed to producing content that the community cares about.

What’s next for The Welch News?

A free registration wall that allows some free content for registering. Allowing readers to subscribe for free allows the publisher to add readers to their newsletter and ultimately helps convert casual readers into loyal subscribers.

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