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What Is a Soft Paywall?

Updated: Mar 10

A soft paywall, a hard paywall, and a metered paywall. It seems like there is a new term popping up every minute to describe the different variations of paywalls.

Yet, each variation can bring about different results. As it were, no two businesses are the same, and the same holds true for paywalls.

However, the majority of paywalls can be categorized into two main types: hard paywalls and soft paywalls.

If you’ve been wondering what exactly is a soft paywall, then you’ve come to the right place.

What Are Paywalls in General?

Before we jump right into the nitty-gritty details of what a soft paywall is, we need to cover our bases. The first base is: what exactly is a paywall?

Paywalls are an online feature implemented by businesses to set up a value exchange in order to grant access to content or experiences.

Traditionally, you’ll find the most common form of value exchange to be revenue by paid memberships or subscriptions.

Soft Paywall: Definition and Implementations

With a solid grasp on what a paywall is and how it functions, we move on to one of its many forms. The soft paywall.

In short, a soft paywall is as ‘soft’ as a business would like it to be. The main difference between a soft paywall and a hard paywall is the amount of content placed behind a paywall. Furthermore, it’s also measured by the ability to access the content behind the paywall.

For a hard paywall, you’ll find most —if not all— the business’ content placed behind a paywall.

In addition, it’ll provide access only to paying subscribers. A rather popular example of the hard paywall would be the Wall Street Journal’s hard paywall.

In the case of soft paywalls, it’ll allow users to access some of its content in one form or another. Yet, it’ll enact the subscription requirement rather swiftly. One of the more common implementations of a soft paywall is a metered paywall.

What Is a Metered Paywall?

Following its naming convention, a metered paywall has a set number of articles (or pieces of content) per month that a user can access for free. Of course, before long, it’ll be requiring a paid subscription to continue that access.

Depending on your business and its type of content, you can conduct a variety of A/B tests in order to find the optimal number on your metered paywall.

For example, you might find that the number that gains you the highest conversions is five free articles per month.

Moreover, the metered model has proven to be less disruptive to your casual visitors, yet it can convert 5-10% of engaged readers into paying customers.

Of course, it wouldn’t do to forget the many forms paywalls can take depending on your business and your target customers.

The key to finding out the perfect paywall is to have a thorough understanding of your relationship with your customers. Moreover, you’ll need to conduct frequent tests to see whether your relationship is static or dynamic.

The Future of Reader Revenue

With a lot of terminologies floating around, it’s key to identify the ones that can boost your reader’s revenue to the heavens.

We believe soft paywalls can bring as great of a benefit to your platform as it did to Suffolk Times, which saw an 8.5 times increase in its revenue.

Schedule a demo with our team, and they’ll show you how to navigate paywalls and establish a powerful user-optimized platform.


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