What is a Paywall and When Should You Use One? | Elegant Themes Blog

At some point, a simple blog outgrows its original purpose and becomes something worth monetizing. At this point, you’ll likely begin to look into various ways to leverage your traffic numbers and boost your income at the same time. This could take the form of ads, but you may also look further into paywalls and charging for your content. However, what is a paywall, and is it a viable option?

In this article, we’ll look at the whole concept of paywalls and subscriptions. We’ll also discuss what they can do for you, your site, and your income.

Let’s get started!

What Is a ‘Paywall’?

First off, let’s give you a simple definition. A paywall is simply a digital barrier that prevents users who are not subscribed from accessing all or some of your content:

Paywalls are a common feature of online magazines and other publications, including The New Yorks Times, The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, The Washington Post, and more. This is not much different than subscribing to a print publication, except that the content is online.

Note that you’re in full control of the terms of your paywall. For example, you can require users to provide their email address to gain access to content, or to complete their first purchase on your site. However, the overwhelming majority of sites that use this monetization method require subscription purchases.

In a later section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the various types of paywalls you can choose from. However, before that, let’s discuss when you’d want to use one.

When Can You Use a Paywall on Your WordPress Website?

Choosing when you’d use a paywall can be a tricky proposition, for many reasons. You don’t want to put your site in danger of losing its readership or traffic numbers. Fortunately, there are some simple markers that will help you decide whether a paywall is right for you:

However, there are a number of red flags to watch for as well. As such, consider whether the following apply to you:

Overall, judging whether the above factors are relevant to you will give you some idea of whether monetization through paywalls is a viable option. Before we get into how to set one up, let’s go through the different types you might see.

A Quick Overview of the Different Types of Paywalls

When it comes to choosing the right monetization model, there are four different types you will come across. The waters can get murky, but the following represent the most common paywall setups:

To touch on the dynamic paywall option a little further, sites will often use cookies to monitor user behavior, specifically their reading habits. For example, if a user only accesses the site once or twice a month, they may never see a paywall. In contrast, a user visiting the site every day will likely reach their stop rate much sooner.

Finally, we have an option that isn’t technically a paywall but could be treated as such. Voluntary donations are an alternative way to monetize content without doubling down with a subscription payment model. Patreon is a classic example of accepting contributions in exchange for access to premium content.

How to Set Up a Paywall or Subscription Website

Before you get into the nuts and bolts of setting a paywall up, consider where your users fit on a scale based on attendance. For example, you could split traffic into three groups:

From here, you’ll want to get into classic segmentation. This is essentially using analytics to find out as much as you can about your user base.

Once you have this information, you’ll clearly see whether a paywall is right or not for your site. At this point, you’ll want to choose the right type. We’d argue that a hard paywall isn’t going to be beneficial for most sites, as they price out those with lower income, and butt against the concept of freedom of speech and the open internet.

In contrast, a softer paywall may be a better route. While standard soft and metered paywalls are fairly easy to implement and maintain, a dynamic paywall is harder to administrate.

What’s more, a setup where you solicit donations will keep your site free for most (thereby not impacting traffic as much), but will often have pledges prominently displayed across your pages. Wikipedia and The Guardian are well known for these tactics:

As for implementing a paywall, you’re in luck. We’ve previously discussed membership sites, and also have an article on how to use the LaterPay plugin. We’ve discussed Facebook Fan Subscriptions and Facebook Group Subscriptions as well. These are viable options for those with large follower numbers on the platform.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our post on how to build a membership website, by Jason Champagne. This multi-part series looks at how to create a site with a paywall using Divi.

Earning an income online is a tantalizing prospect for many site owners. However, choosing the right method of monetization can make or break your bank account. Paywalls are a suitable option for many.

This post has looked at whether a paywall is right for you, and how to set one up. Choosing the right format is going to be important. We’d argue that a soft paywall that looks to capture the most readers is potentially going to be more successful than a hard paywall.

Are you considering a paywall for your WordPress website? Enter the discussion in the comments section below!

Article image credit: elenabsl / shutterstock.com

This content was originally published here.