Paywall: What is it and why is it important for publishers?

Exploring paywalls in the publishing industry
Paywall: What is it and why is it important for publishers?

Let’s dive right into the safety blanket that is a paywall - for publishers and all web businesses. 

Paywall is essentially a gate that ensures that your content and readers are a tiny bit separated only to bring in some profit. They can help publishers monetize their content and generate a stable revenue stream. Why build this wall? Would this bring unnecessary strain between readers and publishers? 

These are all questions we will explore in this blog. 

Why should publishers get behind a paywall

Today we find content available in various formats. While some websites offer journalism free of cost to the reader, by only bombarding them with ads both through the website and email, there’s also a growing number of platforms offering services exclusively behind a paywall. Audible, Netflix, Disney+, Kindle, NewYork Times etc are some of the most popular examples out there. 

Even the commitment-phobes are in 2-3 subscriptions today! 

Subscription has become way less intimidating with the easy micropayments brought in. Digital payments are casual and even the older demographic are getting comfortable with it now. As a publisher, it’s important to cash in on this. You can benefit from reliable and repetitive transactions made on your platform. Keeping it steady will develop a revenue stream that you could bank on. 

Using the recent example of Netflix, we can deduce that it’s important to stay connected to the audience. Customers always appreciate low prices they can easily commit to. While you can always update a subscription pack and work things around until you’re certain, it’s important to remember where your competitors stand and what the market of subscriptions looks like. This doesn’t exclusively include your industry alone. Look into how many subscriptions an average person needs/wants to get quality content from the web. Either match up to that standard or raise the stakes higher with what you’re offering. 

What is a paywall 

A paywall exists in different forms. Sometimes it’s more rigid and ungiving. Other times it’s teasing and inviting. Our goal as a content creator is to get this right. Create just enough tension for the readers to keep wanting more content but give them a taste of what they’re paying for. 

A metered paywall or freewall snowballing into a hardwall are all different ways that publishers build a long lasting relationship with their readers. The goal is simple - deliver quality content for a price tag that will help build a revenue that you can depend on. This will influence the quality of your content, the growth of the website and moreover the brand influence in the industry - whichever industry you’re focusing on. 

Types of paywalls 

  1. Hard paywalls:

This is when a website has all of its content behind a paywall. Much like we’d access newspapers back in the day, you need to pay to have your daily news. A classic example is the Wall Street Journal. If you’re new to the publishing platform, hard paywalls are not recommended. But for the media houses that have established their value to the readers, hard paywalls work well. If you put your content over a hard paywall, you can have story teasers but the entire article will only be available to the subscribers. Hard paywalls can also be implemented for niche stories This would make your content less discoverable but with good journalism, subscribers will indefinitely grow.

  1. Metered paywalls:

A metered paywall trades enough content to keep the readers hooked. This makes your content more social, a part of the story can be read for free but the rest would be behind the paywall. This works well for investigative stories and exclusive content. Many publishers have cut back on the amount of free content on their website. This model allows a steady flow of new readers into your website. The metered paywall helps them to get a good idea of your content. Publishers often charge per article with this model which later develops into monthly subscriptions.

  1. Hybrid Paywalls:

This is a blended approach. In the publishing space, it can take a while to find the right paywall model that works for you. The hybrid model, or the dynamic model is one where you can choose which articles will be free and which ones will be over the paywall. This way the premium content can still make you the revenue you wish while not blocking off the new readers. This can help build a steady wave of regular readers who can later be convinced to become subscribers. Hybrid model also gives room for ads and surveys. You can expand your revenue channels with this model.

  1. Dynamic paywalls:

This is when you evaluate your readers and get them a subscription model that fits them. This takes into consideration a variety of things such as - geography, device type, browsing history, content consumption, visit behavior, subject matter, device or other metrics. Using an AI, one can predict a user’s likelihood of subscribing. They are shown subscription plans accordingly to ensure that they get a personalized experience on the website. New York Media is using this paywall model - it's smarter automation.

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