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Cross Channel Subscription Platform

It was a watershed moment in the evolution of the media when, after more than a decade of providing free journalism to its readers on the web, the world’s most influential newspaper was about to start charging for it.

Prior to 2011, the newspaper and print advertising industries were hemorrhaging revenue as readers migrated online with increasing regularity, so a paid digital strategy was really all about survival for a media institution. 

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Service:

  • Application Modernization

Problem

Our client needed to monetize its web content in order to thrive in the digital age. Together we decided to implement a metered model where access to initial content is free, after which a subscription is required.

The system had to: 

  • Be reliable and flexible enough to handle massive customer base 

  • Support many digital products and subscription types 

  • Provide a seamless user experience across devices and print properties 

  • Integrate with corporate accounting systems 

  • Calculate domestic and international taxes, and 

  • Generate reports for financial auditing and management

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Solution

We developed a solution based on an idempotent architecture that ensures data is always in a known state, even if individual processes are restarted multiple times. Using this approach, we assembled an array of components to power the metered model, including: 

Product Fulfillment Engine

  • Product catalog that customers use to bundle different offerings into one subscription

  • We developed supporting services to enable computer-to-computer communication, authentication, auditing, and management 

Billing and Licensing Engine

  • Provides core e-commerce functionality for all digital services (web sites, mobile applications, downloadable content, etc.).

  • Supports a wide variety of subscription types, and allows complex aggregation and integration of licensing models and payment types.

  • Immutable audit trail and event-based reporting

  • Tax-aware invoicing and revenue recognition

  • High-grade encryption of sensitive data, PCI compliance 

Notification Service

  • Detects changes in customer state and manages the customer communications chain

Ecommerce Database

  • An Oracle database containing all pertinent encrypted customer information, and provides complete audit of all tax-related transactions

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Result

Once the platform was introduced, overall web traffic was mostly unaffected, despite dire predictions that a paywall - even a limited one - would deflect readers. Other major publications in the US and abroad were quick to follow suit. 

In 2015, our client reached 1 million subscribers, and the organization plans to redouble its focus on reader engagement and subscriptions to reach $800 million in digital revenue by 2020.

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