In the world of print journalism, staying profitable was simple enough. All publishers needed to do was look at standard ad revenue and subscription rates to make effective revenue projections for their future. Of course, now that we’ve entered the digital age, things are more complex.
Today, anyone who has an internet connection can get their news online, and the overabundance of information ensures that publishers find it much harder to maintain a competitive advantage. Legacy media companies have no choice but to adapt to the landscape evolving around them.
Unfortunately, making money through digital media isn’t always simple. Things like reduced click-through rates, banner blindness, and ad blocking. Then, on top of these things, there’s also the competition factor to worry about. If publications want to stay on top of the curve, then they need to do something to enhance their revenue stream. That’s where paywalls come in.
A paywall is a way for a digital publisher to restrict access to certain parts of content and turn readers into paid subscribers. It provides today’s media companies with an extra source of profit – but how exactly does it work?
Explaining the Concept of a Paywall
The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal – these are all companies that have their very own paywall on their website. Even Wired announced a paywall this year.
Most paywalls are designed to let you view a small amount of the content before a pop-up kicks in, or an article is obscured in some way. This can be a powerful way to earn subscriptions, and it’s a great way to draw people towards your content without being too restrictive. There are two major types of paywall available today, including:
The Soft Paywall
Otherwise referred to as the “metered” paywall, a soft paywall allows users to view several articles before they’re asked to subscribe for full access to the content within. Often, the quota for how many articles a reader can consume is refreshed once every thirty days or so.
This is the model that’s often employed by newspaper companies that have moved online. A soft paywall strikes a good balance between adding additional revenue to the mix, without alienating an entire readership. Reader retention is often higher with soft paywalls than it is with harder options.
The Hard Paywall
A hard paywall is something a publisher uses when they want their user to subscribe for they access any additional content. This is one of the riskiest options because the publisher may lose a majority of its visibility and audience. For instance, The Times had its own hard paywall, and while it’s revenue increased, it’s readership dropped significantly.
Some publishers use a combination of the two strategies, giving users access to some free content, and setting up other premium content too. Since the media world is so diverse and complicated, there are no set rules for what will work for everyone. Deciding whether a paywall is right for you is a matter that requires careful consideration.
Should You Implement a Paywall?
Ultimately, paywalls might be an effective way to earn revenue for some publishers, but they won’t be the right option for every site. If you’re creating content that your visitor can simply find somewhere else, then they’ll click off your page and go to a competitor.
One thing worth keeping in mind is that readers don’t often think favorably of paywalls. They want their content for free, and a survey found that around 92% of people reading the news online would prefer to look for a free alternative to the story they’re reading than pay to use a preferred site. Of course, if you’re publishing high-quality content that’s entirely unique, people may be more willing to pay for it.
Some of the most common types of content to use paywalls include:
- Online courses
- Case studies
- Detailed tutorials
Ultimately, anything that’s taken a great deal of hard work to create and publish. If you’re a small-time company or lesser-known brand, you might see better results from a paywall when you use it as a one-off solution for your best content.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to publish mostly locked content, and you want your users to pay a fee to access it, then you might be better off implementing a membership plugin instead, which can be easier to manage than a paywall for each page.
4 Paywall Solutions to Consider
If a paywall does seem like the right option for generating revenue on your website, then there are plenty of plugins and other solutions available that you can use to add this functionality to your website. As with most things, the right one for you will depend on your personal preferences. Here are four top choices:
Excalibur is a simple but effective paywall that allows you to sell your content in a stress-free fashion. The plugin is free, it’s easy to setup, and it has everything you need to start monetizing your content and growing your brand. Whether you want to place a paywall on specific pieces of content, or sell groups of information, Excalibur is there to help.
Excalibur is designed to suit a range of different business sizes, and it’s frequently updated to make sure that you have the latest in security and peace of mind.
2. The Pay Per View Plugin
The Pay Per View plugin comes as part of the WPMU DEV premium WordPress toolkit. You’ll need to pay to use it, but it’s one of the best plugins available if you’re looking to restrict premium content with as much simplicity as possible.
This plugin can be used for partial posts, audio, video, and other files, and you can also request a single one-off payment or recurring subscription payment depending on your needs. The tool also integrates with PayPal.
3. InPlayer Paywall
The InPlayer paywall plugin is very easy to use and install. All you need to do is set up an account on InPlayer.com to start managing your content sales. From your user dashboard, you’ll be able to set up pricing, and see information about customer and use statistics.
Importantly, one drawback of this plugin is that you can’t use it to protect pre-published content, you need to create your posts in the plugin editor system.
LaterPay is incredibly simple to set up and allows you to choose the perfect price for all your posts in a category, as well as setting prices for individual posts, and selling limited access with bundles and subscriptions. You’ll need an account as a LaterPay merchant to take payments and make the most of the plugin, but it’s simple enough to get started.
LaterPay also gives users the opportunity to add a dynamic pricing strategy to their post. For instance, for each single post, you can set a price curve that changes as time passes. For instance, you might start with a high price for breaking news, then reduce the cost as the information becomes less relevant.
Will We See More Paywalls Online?
Websites with unique information and specialty content have been able to access additional sources of revenue using paywalls for years now. Ultimately, if the information you’re posting is good enough, then there should be people out there willing to pay for it. However, many of the most successful paywall websites out there are in specific industries or occupations, where people are more likely to shell out money for premium content.
If the standard option of digital ad spending doesn’t work for media websites like online newspapers and magazines, then it would make sense that they’d look for an alternative option instead. The key for many of these publications is discovering new sources of revenue, without scaring away their existing clientele.