How We Took This Publisher’s Website to the Next Level

Written By Jim Kersey
Posted On August 20, 2020

We were approached by Prospect Magazine to rebuild their unreliable paywall and metering system. We also worked on a retainer basis to improve their website periodically and support the editorial team with our technical expertise.

We chose to work with Prospect because they had interesting problems we could help them solve. Their business model is a hybrid between ad-supported revenue, events, sponsored content and subscription access to their content.

Who is Prospect Magazine?

Prospect Magazine is a website offering a range of voices and opinions on current affairs. They are a small, independent publisher, mostly made up of editorial and journalistic staff.

Their website content is both the purchased product and a key part of the funnel used to persuade visitors to become paid subscribers. This is done with a metered paywall system. 

A meter allows digital media publishers to create a paywall, gate content and provide subscription services. Meters are fully customisable and can be used to limit the number of views a visitor to a website has before they are prompted to perform an action such as logging in or registering.

We were excited to undertake this project with Prospect Magazine as soon as we heard about the opportunity. Prospect’s mission of considered journalism is very much in contrast with today’s obsession with fast journalism and the 24-hour news cycle.

Prospect Magazine concentrate on thoughtful journalism, delivered at a slower pace. Some of the content they produce is sponsored by groups interested in reaching their audience. In conjunction with sponsored content, they have an extensive program of events based out of their Westminster office and events space and lots of events around the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem party conferences every year.

Prospect started out as a print magazine which to this day is published every month. They were recently featured in The Drum, in an in-depth article about their funding model.

Metering

Ensuring visitors to Prospect’s website received the correct content permissions is the most important task we faced. Prospect Magazine, as with many membership websites, have had to face the problem of premium content leaking to non-paying members. When this happens, it negates Prospect’s business proposition.

Our solution was simple and elegant. The metering system we developed allows a user to access only certain content when a set of conditions are met.

If the specific conditions are not met, the user is directed to perform an action that Prospect Magazine would like. This usually includes signing up for their newsletter, which extends the number of free articles available to the reader each month. In many other cases the user will be encouraged to open a subscription to the content, giving them the opportunity to read an unlimited number of articles.

The metering system we developed is flexible; the thresholds for triggering can be changed at any time so, should Prospect decide to alter the number of free articles available to a new user, it can be easily done. Also, the amount of a post viewable before signup forms are triggered can be altered, so Prospect can work out what the optimum amount of teaser content is to draw in intrigued visitors to register for a subscription.

We also made it possible for certain pieces of content to be exempt from a reader’s free allocation, which means if Prospect has an important piece of content they want to share with a wide audience, they can.

Performance and hosting

When we started working with Prospect, we were faced with various potentially catastrophic server crashes. We helped Prospect recover from server crashes, then made it a priority to find a more permanent solution by overhauling their servers.

We chose to migrate Prospect from their single dedicated server, which was ageing and causing plenty of reliability issues, onto smaller load-balanced servers on AWS. Doing so, we reduced load times across the site from over eight seconds to below one, virtually across the board.

Improving ad deliverability

Prospect’s revenue model relies heavily on onsite ad revenue. With their current site, they were having trouble with ad deliverability. We helped improve this across the site so they could benefit from sponsored content and ad revenue.

Landing pages

Prospect’s existing website had the functionality to create new landing pages; however, their setup proved tricky for the editorial team to manage. We therefore came up with a way to streamline the creation of new landing pages.

With the current system meaning it sometimes took a whole day to create a new landing page, we knew improvements were essential.

The new system we created is based on the Gutenberg editor, analytics data and a WordPress editor for managing the pages. The new system allows the design and marketing teams to create landing pages for marketing collateral and campaigns in less than an hour so they can focus on editorial standards.

Debugging signup flows

To support Prospect Magazine in securing more subscriptions, we worked hard on debugging their signup flows. With fully functioning, slick signup forms without bugs, customers can easily sign up for membership, without any time-consuming errors leading to frustration or abandonment.

Support and team augmentation

We lent our support to Prospect’s small team, as they needed regular development support to ensure their website continued to run smoothly. Powered By Coffee act as an extension of their team, supporting them with queries, concerns, bugs and troubleshooting. This has led us to work on many parts of the group, from publishing and web to advertising and marketing. This is facilitated by providing service desk software such as Jira and managing the followups to requests, changes and alterations that come through.         

Prospect Magazine project challenges

Here are some of the main challenges we faced when working on the project with Prospect Magazine:

Reliability – Prospect relies on the site as a marketing and delivery platform. Downtime, both for the whole site and on a feature-by-feature basis, can be catastrophic. Consequently, a lot of our focus was on improving the reliability of the website performance.

Security – security is key, there are user accounts tied to access that people have paid for. Ensuring the security of members’ personal data is an ongoing focus.

Existing work – the site has a legacy; there is a lot of existing content, features and integrations that needed to keep working while we improved the performance of the site.

Take your publishing website to the next level

If any of the challenges we helped Prospect Magazine overcome sound familiar, get in touch with us and let’s discuss how we can help take your publishing site to the next level!

Jim Kersey
Content Creator
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