The Paywall that Coexists with Sharing

Some have unfairly accused it for putting in peril the publishing companies while others have seen in it an opportunity to increase their profit. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the Paywall.

In 2009, when News Corp introduced micro-payments for individual articles from the Wall Street Journal, their decision was greeted with doubt:

" I see a very simple problem that will kill this idea right from the start. If you put a price – any price – on an article in the Wall Street Journal, people will not be able to share it. Sites like Mashable won’t be able to link to it. Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon…any content behind a paywall will receive zero traffic from all these social sites."  Stan Schroeder – Mashable

Yet, despite such criticism, paywalls have generally increased in popularity.

The Wall Street Journal had about 537,000 digital subscribers in the autumn of 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, among which 80,000 were available from tablets, smartphones or e-readers.

Now, almost four years later, an increasing number of publishers have followed suit.  Paywall strategies for the New York Times brought them a $63 million revenue increase in 2012 while for Gannett, online monetisation represented 25% of its total revenues.

The most exciting aspect of this trend however, is that publishing companies are not the only ones to use it. Andrew Sullivan, the prolific blogger of  The Dish, talks about their metered paywall:

"Tomorrow will be three full weeks since the meter went into effect on the Dish. Too soon for any serious assessment, but soon enough for some analysis – and for the transparency we promised you. In February, through the meter, we have brought in $93,000 or so in subscriptions."

So has revenue alone inspired other companies to adopt these paywall strategies?

The benefit comes from its metered feature. The term, used to describe a sort of freemium paywall, allows a reader to view a certain number of articles before being encouraged to subscribe. This generates pay-as-you-go and subscription revenue by converting readers into subscribers.

The metered paywall provides a sustainable business model for any media industry considering a long-term strategy. It is a win-win solution for both the occasional reader and the author, as noted by Andrew Sullivan:

"So the model works: deep dish readers get what they want; we have a chance at a profit; the site remains largely free to others who are mere passers-by."

Also, contrary to Stan Schroeder’s opinion, companies who use paywalls can effectively leverage social media to promote their content. This promotion leads to monetisation opportunities as shared content on social platforms also brings more subscribers to the business.

International businesses have different local and global strategies. As such, designing the ideal metered paywall experience for the appropriate consumer is key.  Global leaders in paywall strategies, Evolok allows strategic decision-makers to discover and create the appropriate strategy for their publication.

What makes Evolok suite stand out are the Single Sign On, Social Media Sign On and the Gamification opportunities which, alongside a host of other features, enable the publisher and the reader with a unique experience, while providing an incentive to the reader to promote and share content, increasing brand exposure.

At the moment the publishing companies, followed by few authors in the blogosphere have used products such as Evolok b. ut we anticipate the broadcasting industry will to join the wave as well.

There is no doubt that the digital revolution has forever impacted the communication industry, from the way we create to the way we share and consume information.

With this in mind, do you think the day when we will have to pay for Mashable news is close or is something likely to happen in a distant far-away future?

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