Paywalls enable digital publishers to gate their premium content and charge users to pay in order to access it. They are a viable and lucrative content monetization strategy, in addition to advertising and sponsored content. Paywalls invite users, readers, viewers to sign up, subscribe, and pay recurring fees. Thus, they can drive recurring revenue, generate customer loyalty, and support high quality content creation.
But paywalls also have a negative association in public mind, as they block access to valuable information. Netizens seek methods and hacks to bypass paywalls. They simply want free access to variety of sources. Paywalls are especially criticized in the case of scientific journals where access is restricted to the research supported by public funds. So, we need to create a virtuous balance with our tools and strategies, so that we can balance both ethics and value creation.
What are the Types of Paywalls?
A digital publisher can establish various types of paywalls. If you have a great reputation, lots of high quality content, and a large audience, you can choose to gate your entire content catalog, like Financial Times and Netflix. We call this as a Hard Paywall. Your audience or readers will have to subscribe first, and only then they can access any of your content.
Others might simply avoid paywalls altogether, and instead seek donations while offering Free Open Access to all their content. Wikipedia and The Guardian are good examples of this. But even here, you need to have established your brand and have a strong position in the information landscape.
But most digital publishers and content creators can neither use hard paywalls nor go fully free. For one, putting all of their content behind paywalls will severely hamper their SEO score and site rank. And lots of valuable revenue opportunity will be lost if they go fully free and depend on donations. So, most media companies and creators will go for some version of a Soft Paywall. We will explore the nuances of various soft paywall types next.
Various approaches to Soft Paywalls
Rather than restricting access to all their content, or making it all available for free, most publishers will choose the middle path.
- A Freemium Paywall approach divides the content catalog into free segment and premium segment. The free content serves as a great way to gain audience, and premium content functions as the revenue generator.
- A Metered Paywall does not pre-divide content into free and premium. Rather, it sets limits on the quantity of articles or videos that a free or unsubscribed user can access in a given time period. So, within those metered limits, readers can access any content.
- A Dynamic Paywall is a more sophisticated and flexible approach compared to freemium and metered paywalls. Here, you can intelligently collect personal attributes of users and then craft a personalized strategy for converting them into subscribers or paying users.
The Role of Paywall Systems, Solutions, and Platforms
Digital publishers, content creators, and media companies cannot always have the budget for having a dedicated, in-house developer team. To implement a paywall system for their content, they will seek off-the-shelf solutions that will fit well with their existing tooling and workflows. And which will require minimal code or technical tweaking. So they look for the best paywall solutions and subscription management software.
Your ideal paywall system will not just implement a paywall for you on your content. It should handle the entire journey of your readers or viewers, from a free user to a new subscriber to a recurring loyal customer. You should be able to control the parameters of your subscription plans and access to content to a granular level. For the competitive market, you need to be able to personalize your offerings for every user, and so need a Dynamic Paywall & Subscription Strategy. This will enable you to extract the maximum possible value from a user while also serving them great content and experiences to earn their continued loyalty and support.
The Best Paywall Platforms for WordPress and other CMS
Let us look at 8 great Paywall Solution Providers:
- Admiral presents itself as a Visitor Relationship Management or VRM company the provides marketing automation services.
- It offers a suite of related solutions that can help publishers of any size develop better relationships with their visitors and grow their revenue.
- Thousands of publishers worldwide trust Admiral, such as CNBC, Nascar, PGA Tour, The Seattle Times, and CBS Interactive.
- The different modules comprising the solutions provided by Admiral are:
- Adblock Recovery (anti-adblock mechanisms, adblock analytics)
- Paywalls and Digital Subscriptions (easy paywalls & subscription management platform)
- Privacy & Consent (GDPR, CCPA compliance)
- Regwalls & Email Acquisition (easy email signups & registration walls)
- Social Subscriptions (grow your followers on FB, Insta, Twitter, Tiktok etc.)
- If you would like to take advantage of all their solution modules, they have an All-in-One plan for all their modules. It costs $120/month.
- If Paywalls are your only interest, Admiral offers a great pricing plan: 15% of your subscriptions sold.
- There are no other upfront or extra costs for the Paywalls, Subscriptions and Donations module.
- You only need to add one tag to your existing site code, and the Admiral VRM's paywalls and subscription management features will magically activate. Thus, you can start selling subscriptions within 5 minutes of registering.
- MPP Global Solutions has been acquired by Aptitude Software which specializes in Subscription Management & Billing services.
- However, they continue to advertize and showcase eSuite subscription software, since it is well-known and appreciated by clients.
- eSuite is designed for larger B2C & B2B corporate and enterprise clients to help them manage both their digital and physical subscriptions in one place.
- MPP Global offers paywalls and subscription services to news media publishers and broadcasters (VOD).
- Their clients include Sky, NBC Universal, The Daily Mail, TorStar & OneSoccer.
- eSuite solution consists of various modules including:
- Intelligence & Decisioning (for tracking anonymous visitors on web & apps)
- Acquisition & Conversion (paywalls & regwalls that can be highly targeted to optimize marketing budget)
- Identity & CRM (to know your customer & manage identities)
- Revenue & Billing (for any physical or digital product across web, mobile & smart TV)
- Retention & Recovery (to reduce customer churn & protect subscription revenue)
- Analytics & Reporting (for insightful data analysis for business decisions)
- eSuite provides API Library that can be implemented on the server-side with SOAP & Restful APIs, or client-side with JSON APIs.
- However, rather than a simple plug-and-play experience, you will need to work with their implementation consultants to integrate and deploy eSuite into your products & services.
- To get your quote for eSuite solution and their Start Smart package, they encourage you contact their team.
- Evolok is built for online publishers for monetizing their content & engaging their audience.
- Their clients include The New Yorker, Wired, The Indian Express, Vanity Fair, and Nation Media.
- Evolok present complete modular solutions for customized digital subscriptions:
- Manage User Identity with seamless registration, login, single sign on, social login
- Control Content Access with metered and dynamic paywalls while providing great experience to customers
- Segment & Personalize your audience to provide targeted offers and content
- Monetize your Content by deploying customized membership and paywall models to optimize conversions & revenue
- They have designed Evolok for the modern media business to work on all devices, and integrates seamlessly using its robust APIs.
- With mixed-wall strategies, freemium & paid experiences, and anti-adblock mechanisms, Evolok generates for you marketable users, actionable insights, and unlocks additional revenue opportunities.
- Evolok's pricing and customized solutions for your needs can be clarified by talking to their Sales team.
- Leaky Paywall CORE is a free, open-source, WordPress Plugin to let anyone customize a basic paywall experience on their sites. You don't have to pay or share any revenue with them for the CORE plugin.
- For accessing all of their 40+ extensions, personal setup sessions, and revenue building sessions, you can go for Leaky Paywall PRO. It costs $249 per month.
- For Enterprise users requiring even additional features and support, you can contact LeakyPaywall team.
- 1000+ small and medium publishers have trusted and relied on Leaky Paywall to manage their subscriptions.
- Leaky Paywall works in three phases:
- Subscription funnel is kickstarted by enticing users to sign up to access newsletter or extra articles.
- Once the audience is familiarised to your brand and content, you can upsell them offers and memberships at the right time.
- With lots of options like selling single articles, group memberships, ad-free experience and premium archives, you can monetize your content in multiple ways.
- They have additional products like Ad Dropper, Insights, UniPress, and IssueM to cover ad management, mobile apps, analytics, and magazine-style periodic issues.
- Piano is a premium and modern solutions suite that is completely white labelled.
- Its clients include The Washington Times, TechCrunch, Rakuten, LinkedIn, and ABC News.
- Piano offers a suite of products that includes:
- Composer for Personalized Experiences
- DMP for Realtime Data
- VX for Subscriptions
- ID for Registrations
- ESP for Recommendations
- Piano offers following solutions through its various products:
- Audience segmentation
- A/B testing
- Ad blocking detection
- Pricing & promotions
- Content recommendations
- Revenue recognition
- Flexible billing
- Marketing automation
- Experience management
- Relationship management
- Multi-channel entitlements
- Piano VX is their e-Commerce Engine product you should start with, for paywalls and subscriptions. They will recommend you to use it with their other products for the best results.
- Subscription management, loyalty programs registration, dynamic pricing offers, fixed-time access, cross-selling and upselling other products, is the forte of Piano VX.
- Piano Composer is their flagship, no-code product to turn your business plans into code for audience journeys, commerce experiences, and more.
- Piano's solutions are powered by their machine learning framework LT[x] which stands for "Likelihood to Act".
- For seeing their live demos and inquire about pricing, you will need to contact their team.
- Poool offers a dynamic paywall solution for the modern media publishers.
- Their clients include LA Tribune, Prisma Media, GSO, InfoPro Digital, and Le Telegramme.
- You can offer personalized compensation choices to your readers to access your content.
- Poool Access is the name of their paywall solution, which is RGPD compliant and maintains browsers' confidentiality.
- Publishers get a dashboard to create scenarios, segment audience, edit widgets, run A/B tests, and view paywall statistics.
- Readers interact with your highly optimized paywall widgets which are attractive and personalizable to access your content and interact with your catalog.
- Poool is designed as an open ecosystem that can be plugged into any CSM, CRM, data and analytics system.
- Poool's Starter Plan starts at €350/month for up to 500,000 page views.
- Also, Poool's sister brand Underlines offers expert support to define and implement your paywall strategy.
- Subscription DNA provides streamlined paywalls and subscription billing services.
- Paywall authentication to protect premium content
- Subscriptions & membership registrations
- Automated recurring billing
- User management & reporting
- Group enrollments & subscriptions management
- Login tracking & statistics
- Email communications & auto responses
- Their SaaS model is PCI compliant for data security and simple integrations can be done in 3-5 days.
- Their clients are small and medium digital businesses.
- Subscription DNA costs a flat rate of $199 per month for up to 350 users, or have revenue sharing plans starting at $99 per month.
- Zephr offers intelligent paywall solutions for media businesses and digital publishers.
- It has a dynamic Rules Builder tool to let you try different conversion strategies across different cohorts of your audience.
- You can create any type of paywall using Zephr, be it hard, soft, metered or dynamic.
- Zephr lets you segment your audience according to certain behaviors and attributes, and then helps you provide different experiences and conversion strategies to these distinct audience segments.
- You can optimize the performance of your paywall and design customized customer journeys within minutes.
- Zephr seamlessly integrates with your existing content management system and client relation management system.
- Besides Intelligent Paywalls, Zephr also offer a suite of solutions, making it a complete Subscription Experience Platform.
- Intelligent Paywalls to drive conversions
- Identity & Access Management that lets you set your own rules
- First-Party Data Strategy to help you optimize your monetization mix
- User Specific Personalization to create unique experiences
- Corporate Subscription Management for simplifying large accounts
- Zephr does not advertize their pricing plans upfront. They encourage you to get in touch with their team so that you can discuss your exact needs and budget.
Paywall solutions and systems come in various sizes and configurations to suit the needs of different publishers. For continued success, you must choose the right kind of paywall, be it soft, metered, dynamic, or hard. This should be decided according to the trust and reputation you already have with your audience. Also, paywall systems are not limited to gating content, they extend to the entire subscribers lifecycle journey and provide rich analytics.
Hence, if you are a small business or individual content creator, you can deploy a paywall quickly for free using Admiral or Leaky Paywall CORE. For organizations with larger audience base and complex usecases, there are enterprise tools like eSuite, Evolok and Piano. And all the paywall solutions have paid options and support teams to help you configure and integrate their paywall system into your products. So let us know in the comments about your favorite paywall solution!