How much can the type of paywall applied to content affect the involvement of the public?

Published on
2021-03-16 00:00:00

An overview of the different types of paywalls

Choosing the right paywall can affect your involvement more than you might think.  With the decline in advertising revenue and market uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, revenues generated by readers have become essential for many publishers. For this reason, along with subscriptions and after the definition of a correct digital strategy, there is a need to implement a paywall.  

In its most elementary form, a subscription model aims to offer publishers an additional income compared to that of advertising. However, a subscription model, and the subsequent implementation of a paywall, imply much more than just a pop-up window of purchase request. This is particularly true in the current COVID-19 post landscape in which most publishers have moved or are in the process of moving to a reader-driven business model.

The publisher must first decide what content to put under paywall: some, most or all? And more importantly, he has to come up with a new strategy that will lead readers to become paying customers.

According to research by the Shorenstein Center and the Lenfest Institute, a substantial proportion of publishers continue to experience major problems while trying to convert users into subscribers. The data has shown that only highly involved users can be successfully converted to paying users, others often turn out to be an unnecessary waste of time and resources. And, despite the involvement, the publisher must understand when and how to begin to restrict access to content, putting in place a strategy that leads less loyal users to increase their loyalty to the publisher.

The decision to implement a paywall comes in most cases to the implementation of two potential scenarios. Users:  

  • or enter a channel that leads them to subscribe to a subscription;  
  • or they consume all the free content until they reach a wall, and then they may choose to go elsewhere.  

The difference in user behaviour in these two scenarios largely depends on the reader’s loyalty to the site and the perception of the value of the content.

In its most basic form, a paywall offers users the option of paying a fee for the purchase of a single item, a monthly purchase or an annual (or longer) subscription in exchange for access to "premium content". The types of paywalls used by digital publishers today vary widely depending on the type of publication. Popular publications with a loyal audience may be able to impose a simple subscription fee for access to all content. Other publications need to work harder to win over subscribers and to do so need a more "nuanced" paywall, which takes into account user behaviour and content consumption patterns.

Most digital publishers still struggle to find the right balance when it comes to defining a digital subscription strategy, however, it is worth developing the most effective approach for each publication.  This is because the benefits of the right solution are reflected directly in profits.

Types of Paywall

There are five main types of paywalls: Hard, Freemium, Consumer, Dynamic and Hybrid Dynamic.


Hard Paywall 

A Hard Paywall is essentially a pop-up that prevents users from accessing any content on the site unless they purchase a subscription.  

There are however two problems arising from the use of this type of paywall:

  • users are likely to quit, if they are not very involved and do not see the true value of subscribing to a subscription;

  • it is more difficult to acquire new readers: if new readers cannot access content to assess whether the content is right for them, how can they decide whether it is worth investing in a newspaper?

This type of subscription has proven effective for well-known publishers who have a very loyal and developed audience.  The publisher who decides to use it must still produce high-value content across the board.


Freemium Paywall 

A Freemium Paywall offers readers a mix of free and paid content. In this case the free content is unlimited and instead to access premium content the user must sign up.

Making a large amount of free content available increases the risk of losing those slightly involved users who may instead be ready to move to a higher level of involvement and understand the value of the subscription that is offered to them. Also, constantly blocking access to content can cause paywall "fatigue". Alternatively, the user can simply click on other content and not consider the idea of making a purchase.



Consumer paywall 

A consumer paywall allows users to access a certain amount of content within a specific period. For example, a publisher can allow users to read six articles every thirty days. When the sixth article is read, the reader is presented with a paywall and all other unused content is blocked until the end of the trial period. This option often comes with the registration requirement, which should essentially ensure a paywall offer depending on the user, but does not always work this way in practice.

Users who are new to the site and could consume large amounts of content in a short amount of time - even a single session, should not be treated like registered users who have been active for months consuming their article limit. This is the example where a more data-driven dynamic approach is better than a static approach.

Because this type of paywall creates some flexibility in the system, it can be an attractive option for some users and may even increase their involvement. However, it is susceptible to exploitation by readers who resort to "incognito navigation" modes to bypass the limit. Some paywalls can be too aggressive or too permissive, so the publisher must make sure to know the habits of how readers interact with the paywall to understand if, when and how to regulate it.


Dynamic paywall 

The dynamic paywall operates on principles similar to those of the consumer paywall, except that the behavior of each user will determine the timing of the activation of the paywall. Until a reader reaches a level of interaction useful to the publisher to determine his involvement and therefore the propensity to subscribe, he is allowed to consume any content.

This type of paywall, driven by artificial intelligence and highly customized, can increase the percentage of users involved that convert into subscribers. However, the correct level at which the paywall is activated is crucial. If it is too high or too low, potential subscribers will be lost.


Hybrid-dynamic paywall 

This is a form of paywall built on dynamic and freemium types. So while premium content remains blocked, free content remains available but can also be dynamically blocked when a user reaches a certain level of involvement, allowing the publisher to monetize its free content in addition to its premium offering, targeting a highly specific user segment.

Taking advantage of two types of successful paywall, this type of combined paywall can produce a conversion rate 50% higher than the other types of paywall.


In conclusion 

According to the research mentioned above, we can therefore conclude that a subscription strategy will not bring value if a publisher does not also have a plan for the involvement of users appropriate to its real hiring skills and its readers target. Publishers must encourage the loyalty of users with high value content and an optimized offer created on their habits. 
Choosing the right paywall for a publisher is only the first step in a multi-stage, long-term process, but its importance cannot be underestimated. 

This is just an example of how to increase the value of a magazine and involve the public to the point of making it a livelihood of the newspaper itself.
GMDE deals daily with the needs of publishers on the one hand and technological developments on the other. Thanks to his many years of experience, he is able to advise on the best strategy and the tools to implement it.All this makes GMDE an ideal partner with which to face new challenges.


Source: A Quick Guide To Paywalls And How To Choose The Best One For Your Site


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