Consumer Surveys for the Win

Mission Loc@l has many facets to it. Most of our community come to the site as a go-to source for news and information on the Mission District. And we love them for that.

Mission Loc@l is also an educational tool for journalism students from U.C. Berkeley and beyond.

Mission Loc@l is also a nonprofit that must experiment to find ways to sustain itself. This week we launched a new one.

Many sites including the Dallas Morning News and New York Times have implemented various versions of paywalls. Your access to content is limited unless you reach for your wallet. That is not the model we are exploring.

Instead we’ve decided to try an alternative to paywalls. For the next few weeks we will be experimenting with Google Consumer Surveys.

This means some content will be hidden to the reader until they take a survey, share the article you are reading or donate. The choice is yours and every choice helps Mission Loc@l stay strong so we can keep the community informed. The questionnaires are usually one or two questions. Pretty painless and then you are off on your way to keep reading the latest news from Mission Loc@l. Some of my personal thoughts on this experiment can be found here.

Check out this example (Note: Below is an image – you can’t actually take this survey. Try it live here.

This is a test for us. A way for our readers to help keep Mission Local strong with just two quick clicks of a button and your honest feedback.

Only a few days in it’s early to rush to judgement but so far we are seeing a completion rate of just over 20%. That means another 80% are abandoning the content. It does suck that 80% of folks abandon the content. But the 20% that do go through with the surveys create an eCPM of around $15. I’d take that any day. Again, this is very preliminary data (literally three days into the experiment).

The next logical question then is a cost analysis of principles. Early signs show that financially this is a good decision but is it worth losing 80% of your readers? That’s a question I can’t really answer. Certainly not for a project like Mission Loc@l which is also an educational tool.

But I do think it’s important to keep in mind that regular abandonment rates are pretty high (attention spans online are short). So of the 80% that do leave it’s probably safe to assume half of them would have left anyways. It’s also important to remember that in this experiment we aren’t asking people to pay money. It’s not a financial burden. Readers leave on their own accord or because they can’t figure out what to do (the user-interface problem). If they leave on their own accord, they never would have donated anyways or become valuable Mission Local readers. Which is why I want to focus on the user-interface problem to try and keep the small percentage of folks who leave out of frustration to a minimum.

The experiment will continue and hopefully we will find some useful information about how hyperlocal sites can use Google Consumer Surveys or competitors (and there will be competitors) to make some extra money.

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