top of page

What is a Paywall?

A paywall is used to restrict access to content and make it available only to subscribed users. When publishers first took their content online, they could rely on advertising revenue to run their operations. However, recent changes have left media companies looking for a better way to monetize their content. Because they could no longer rely on Ad revenue, publishers turned to implementing a paywall in order to drive subscription revenue.


What is a paywall?

Paywalls are what publishers use to restrict access to their content. Media companies use them to encourage readers to sign up for a membership in which they can pay a monthly recurring fee. In exchange, they get an unlimited access to a website’s content.

Types of Paywalls

Metered Paywall: Provides readers a number of free articles before asking them to become a member and subscribe in order to access more content.

  1. Example 1: The New York Times reportedly spent $40 million and 14 months to build the infrastructure required to collect necessary data and present their readers with a metered paywall. Although it required a large investment, the New York times reached 3.5 million subscribers at the end of 2017. (Source: Business Insider)

  2. Example 2: is a soccer website that is a great example of a website that offers a metered paywall. They use advanced targeting technology based on location, device type, and more. They only show their paywall to users with a high willingness to subscribe. Unlike The New York Times, they spent no upfront costs and it took them less than 20 minutes to set up their paywall using Pelcro.

Premium Content Paywall: Restricts access to certain “premium” articles. The reader gets access to all free articles. However, they cannon view the content that the publisher has deemed premium. By subscribing, the reader pays a recurring monthly amount for unlimited access to all of the website’s content.

  1. Example 1: Digiday takes it a step further. Aside from offering premium research articles, they provide their members with exclusive access to members and a copy of their print and digital magazine.

  2. Example 2: Les Affaires serves the business market in Quebec, Canada. They offer free articles, but have premium articles with insider scoops and use a paywall to get users to subscribe for access. Subscribers can also get a physical or digital copy of their magazine.

Paywall Strategies

Soft Paywall: Provides users some level of access to all content before prompting them to become a paying subscriber. This type of paywall is usually associated with Metered paywalls as well as ones that can be dismissed.

  1. Example 1: Wired is new to metered paywalls, but they have recently announced that they will be switching fully to a subscription model. Readers get 3 free articles and will then have to pay in order to read more. They are also enticing readers to subscribe by offering them a free USB and an AdFree experience as well as the option to get their magazine.

  2. Example 2: SoleReview is a leader in running shoe reviews. The website offers a number of free articles, using a metered paywall. Visitors can access these articles before seeing an option to subscribe and get unlimited access as well as an AdFree Experience.

  3. The Guardian may not restrict access to their content, their support message can be viewed as a soft paywall since they are still prompting users to pay a monthly fee in order for them to continue to produce content.

Hard Paywall: A hard paywall usually comes with strict restrictions. Because users cannot access the content without becoming a paying subscriber, Hard paywalls are usually associated with Premium Content.

  1. Example 1: The Financial Times will not allow readers to see anything other than the title and subheading of their articles. In order to read anything on their website, visitors must become a member by paying a monthly subscription fee. Like many publishers, they also offer a variety of subscription options.

  2. Example 2: Premieres en Affaires is a French magazine made by and for women in the business environment. You can read some of their content on their website for free. However, you have to purchase a digital or physical copy of their magazine in order to read their premium articles.

Most publishers use a variety of different methods in order to drive subscriptions. For example, some websites allow users to sign up through a soft paywall for free to access a limited number of articles. However, they keep other articles under a hard paywall so that they cannot be viewed without a subscription.

Should You Implement a Paywall?

Implementing a paywall has become more of a necessity as current industry trends continue to drive advertising revenue down. Not only that, but subscriptions actually align the publisher’s goals with that of their readers.

“Paywalls make content better” – Nick Thomson, Editor of Wired said in an interview with Recode

The fact is, there is a certain subset of your users that would be willing to pay for your content. It is best to start the process by choosing a platform that will allow you to target these users as you start to offer more premium content and reach out to more of your audience. The easy and risk-free way to start is by using a soft paywall. Over time, and through the use of A/B testing, you’ll be able to find a price point and a value proposition that makes sense for your readers. Pelcro automates the process using machine learning technology. Providing you with recommended price points, and suggests users with the highest likelihood of subscribing for more accurate targeting and higher conversions.

Setting up a paywall has become easier and faster than ever. Containing everything you need to manage a subscription business from the paywall to the CRM, support, analytics, and more (you can setup Pelcro in minutes for free).


bottom of page