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The case for paywalls: How and why you should do it

Admin | 28 April 2021 | Read time: 8 minutes
Topics | Paywalls

Have you been considering putting your content behind a paywall? If you haven’t done so yet, what’s stopping you?

Many businesses fear that a paywall will cause their bounce rate to increase and that readers will look for content elsewhere, slowly decreasing the numbers coming to their website altogether.

Maybe this was once the case when publications first started implementing paywalls and users had been accustomed to accessing the content for free. But paywalls have grown in popularity over the years as publishers start to monetise their digital content and users are no longer surprised to come across one. Readers won’t be put off by the paywall itself, but what lies behind it. If you are creating quality content, then they will be more than happy to pay for it.

Paywalls are the future of digital content – a study in 2019 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that across both the US and Europe, 69% of publishers had some level of paywall in place.

So, if you want to get ahead of the crowd, you first need to understand why you should implement one and then how to do it. To help, here’s what you need to know about paywalls.

What is a paywall?

A paywall is a way to monetise your content and there are several types to choose from.

Some paywalls won’t allow readers access to the content at all without subscribing while others will let them read certain articles – or a certain number of articles – before they have to pay.

Users visit the website and then a pop-up will inform them that they will need to subscribe to read more. Once they do so, they will have unrestricted access.

How a paywall works

A paywall works through the use of a digital subscription platform. This not only makes setting up the paywall easy but also lets you keep track of data, such as who is reading your content and what types of articles they are reading. This will help you create targeted content that the reader will want to continue paying for and consuming.

Now you know what it is and how it works, let’s take a look at the different types of paywalls.

Paywall Examples

There are several different types of paywalls you can choose from, so you can find the one that best suits your publication. These include:

A hard paywall

Users will be able to read one or two articles for free with a hard paywall. Once they have reached their quota, they will be notified that they need to pay to read more.

This is a great way to entice people by giving them a taste of what’s on the other side of the paywall. If they aren’t familiar with your content already, they then know what to expect and can make an informed decision.

A metered paywall

This has a very similar benefit to a hard paywall. Readers can access several articles for free before the paywall appears. However, rather than just one or two articles, with a metered paywall this could be 20 articles.

This type of paywall allows you to build up a loyal readership that wants to consume your content – it also helps you better understand the type of content they are choosing to read.

A freemium paywall

A freemium or soft paywall means that just your ‘premium’ articles must be paid for. Readers will be able to access your other content but this will have adverts alongside it. Once they have paid, they will be able to read all the content without any advertisements.

If you are still wary of putting your content behind a paywall, this is a good place to start as you can choose what is and isn’t restricted.

A dynamic paywall

A dynamic paywall allows the reader to consume content until they are deemed to be engaging with it enough, which is when the paywall will appear.

This will likely be a different number of articles for each reader. If for example, they regularly return to the same section of the website several times a day, they are likely to see a paywall before someone reading just a few articles across the website now and again.

Like a metered paywall, you can get a good understanding of the reader. This includes information such as how likely they are to subscribe and when you should target them. A dynamic paywall is a great option for those who still aren’t sure about whether a paywall will work for them or not.

Why put your content behind a paywall?

Readers are already paying for digital content so why shouldn’t they be paying for yours too?

Rather than losing readers, publications that have already implemented a paywall have instead seen huge success and a record number of subscribers. Many people are loyal to publications and if they want to access your content, they will be willing to support it financially.
The New York Times is just one example of a publication benefitting from using a digital subscription platform that features a paywall.

According to Press Gazette, it currently has 5.7 million subscribers. CEO, Meredith Kopit Levien believes that, by 2030, 100 million people will be paying for online news and the NYT is predicted to have 24 million of those alone.

The New Statesman agrees – speaking on Twitter when its paywall was launched in 2018, Editor Fraser Nelson, said: “Paywalls are the only future for journalism: if the quality of writing is good enough (and the New Statesman’s certainly is) then people will pay.”

There are so many types of paywall to choose from, why not start with a soft paywall and see how it works for you? It couldn’t be easier with Zephr, we can help you monetise your content. Get in touch to find out more and discuss your options or try out our demo.


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