People who have studied the information age at this point recognize that there were a bunch of problems and side effects to the fact that people weren’t asked to pay for content in the early years of the internet.

- Nick Thompson, editor-in-chief at Wired

 

It’s been a long journey, a decade to be precise. In the initial days of the internet, threats like “nobody would want to pay for a piece of content” and “SERPs would never run out of similar options” prevailed the industry and the revenue struggles of publishers.

Digital publishers took quite some time to be certain of putting a wall on their premium content. But now, the tables have finally turned. In a study conducted by Pubexec, 93 publishers (that work with media companies earning $1 million or more in annual revenue) chose paywalls (from a list of 35 solutions) in the top 10 technologies.

 

What is a Paywall?

A paywall is a revenue strategy where several sections or the entire website is placed behind a wall. To bypass the wall the readers are prompted to register themselves for a paid subscription. Paywalls can be perceived as the digital form of the traditional newspaper subscriptions. You get a monthly or yearly subscription to access the content of a publication.

Just like web push notifications, paywalls also help publishers build an audience, generate recurring revenue vs advertising, and simultaneously, encourages the publishing world to deliver a higher value in their content.

 

Types of paywalls:

Hard paywalls and soft paywalls are the two major forms of paywalls that publishers use.

1. Hard Paywall

Integrating a hard paywall restricts the content access of the entire website. The Wall Street Journal uses a hard paywall.

 

Example of a Hard Paywall from Wall Street Journal

 

2. Soft Paywall

A soft paywall allows the user to access several sections of the website for free. A soft paywall can be set up in two ways - a freemium paywall and a metered paywall.

  • Freemium Paywall

    Barricades the premium content pages and leaves the low performing and some premium content pages for free. The Telegraph uses this subscription model.

Example of a Freemium Soft Paywall from The Telegraph

 

A freemium paywall is a combination of free and premium content. Freemium isn’t free but the user gets to browse a portion of the website at no cost and pay for the one that publisher tags as quality content. A publisher decides which pages go behind the wall and which ones can be accessed for free. Nearly 45% of the media houses use a freemium business model.

  • Metered Paywall

    Allows access to only a fixed number of content pages for the new readers. Wired asks readers to pay once their 5 stories/month is reached.

Example of a metered soft paywall from The Wired

 

Metered Paywalls work in a slightly different fashion. These paywalls don’t tag content as premium or not. Instead, it barricades the content after a preset share of the whole is consumed by a user. The metrics, tracking and limiting the access, once the threshold is reached, include the number of page views, the number of articles, time spent on the website, the geographical location of the user, or the device the consumer is using to access the content.

There are websites that implement both the subscription models. Harvard Business Review uses both freemium and metered paywalls.

 

Example of a website using both freemium soft paywall and metered soft paywall solutions on their website. Harvard Business Review does this

 

Factors to keep in mind while choosing a paywall management solution:

Selecting a hard/soft (or a freemium/metered) paywall is something that needs to be thought through while considering a paywall solution. After finalizing that, here are some specific pointers that editorial and product teams need to consider before zeroing on a solution -

  • Create and track campaigns: The solution must offer the ability to set up, create, change, and monitor a paywall campaign.
  • Control access: The solution must offer the ability to control metering settings at publishers’ end.
  • Plugin solution: A few paywalls do not integrate seamlessly with your current CMS. Hence, don’t have a plugin. In simpler words, they require you to use their full content publishing solution or connect via an API.
  • Audience segmentation: Segmenting audience helps you filter the most valuable audience segments and retain them for a longer period with personalized offers.
  • Payment model: The access to the premium content in some solutions follows a pay per article model whereas others provide a subscription for a set time frame to users. You must pick one that would interest your readers best.
  • Dependence on the support team: There must be less or no dependence on the IT team for creating and monitoring campaigns.

14 Most Trusted Paywall Solutions for Publishers

Piano-micheal

“Free riders aren’t that valuable, it’s a low likelihood they will ever pay, so why bother? Publishers are trying to find the right balance between restricting access and making it harder for current and prospective subscribers who are considering it. They don’t want to add too much friction and are wary of tactics that get in the way of that.”

Michael Silberman, SVP at Piano

For too long, paywalls have made publishers doubt the true potential of their content. But now, as the monetization approach has gained grounds, here’s the list of 12 paywall solutions that can help you gain an audience and dollars by placing a paywall in front of your content.

1. Laterpay

LaterPay

LaterPay helps publishers convert their traffic (users) into transactions (subscribers). It lets subscribers buy digital content from all the websites working with LaterPay and asks to pay only after they’ve reached the $5 limit. By giving subscribers the option to consume premium content without registering or submitting their payment information, LaterPay is generating up to 2.5X revenue for the websites.

Pricing: LaterPay charges a standard fee of 15% from the revenue it generates for a website. Apart from this, there’s no monthly fee, setup fee, maintenance fee, payment processing fee, or payout fee.

Plugin Solution: Yes. Wordpress

Brands using LaterPay: Salon, VRM, careju

2. Leaky Paywall

leaky paywalllLeaky Paywall is a go-to solution when it comes to the most flexible paywall for WordPress. It is designed to promote your digital content in search and social media which expands the traditional approach to marketing content. It lets you lock down, open up, meter, and offer freemium access levels. With Leaky Paywall publishers get the control access to articles, categories, premium archive content, iOS & Android apps, etc. This solution also integrates with email services, third-party CRMs, and fulfillment providers.

Pricing: Leaky Paywall offers three pricing levels:

  1. Pubcare: $125/mo (Best for publishers that don’t need much technical support. Issues can be fixed through live chat or email support)
  2. Pubcare Managed: $295/mo (For publishers that need tech support and complete platform management)
  3. iOS and Android Apps: $295/mo with a standard development fee of $2995.

Plugin Solution: Yes, WordPress

Brands using Leaky Paywall: Modern Drummer, Harvard University, iPolitics

3. MediaPass

MediaPass

MediaPass is paywall solution that adjusts to any device the user is on. It promises to generate 5-20X revenue for publishers than advertising. It provides protection against ad blockers and CPM compressions and gets implemented with just a line of code. It supports both freemium and metering paywall models and provides the option to show MediaPass to any number of users. This helps in optimizing the exposure for a majority of users by letting you test the gating of content and understand how your audience behaves.

Pricing: MediaPass takes a percentage of the total subscription revenue a publisher earns.

Plugin Solution: Yes. Wordpress

Brands using MediaPass: Ogden newspaper Inc., CBS Media, GateHouse Media

4. MemberGate

membergate icon

MemberGate is an all in one solution. It is a content management platform that helps publishers in creating a great subscription experience for the users. Everything is controlled by the website owner, right from launching a metering campaign to getting daily reports to receiving alerts in case of any technical bug. You get the option to automate member sign-ups, welcome messages, renewal notices, etc. You don’t need plugin management with MemberGate as it’s not a free software with paid plugins.

Pricing:

  • Publishers who just getting started can go for the basic Starter plan at $97/mo for up to 100 subscribers
  • New marketers can go for $197/mo for up to 250 subscribers
  • For growing businesses MG offers a plan at $247/mo for up to 500 subscribers
  • For publishers that have 500+ subscribers, you can raise a request here

Plugin Solution: No. The tool requires you to move the entire content on their CMS.

Brands using MemberGate: APNEA.TODAY, Internet Marketing Training Club, CLUB RHINO

5. MPP Global Solutions

MPP global icon

eSuite is a subscription management software offered by MPP Global Solutions that helps publishers acquire, monetize, and optimize digital subscribers. The subscribers own the power of amending their subscriptions, managing devices, configuring their delivery calendars, etc. The solution can easily be managed and supports all the three subscription models - hard, soft or metered paywalls.

eSuite offers localized subscriptions in all the countries, currencies, tax codes, format, and frequency. It maximizes on the ROI by allowing you to pick a particular module of subscribers that is most relevant to you.

Pricing: Customized pricing. Contact here

Plugin Solution: Yes (Not found)

Brands using MPP Global Solution: Times Online, The Daily Mail, Miniweb

6. Pelcro

PelcroIt’s a subscription management solution with a simple integration that is compatible with most of the CMS including WordPress, Wixx, and Drupal. With Pelcro you can segment your target audience with filters such as country, region, device, etc. As a publisher, you get to customize the flow, design, and text for that audience segment. It also allows you to A/B test your audience by creating different paywalls for different audience segments. It supports leading payment gateways like PayPal, ApplyPay, Amazon payments, etc

Pricing: Pelcro offers subscriber-based pricing. It has three pricing levels that charge:

  1. Starter - $99/mo - up to 500 subs.
  2. Advanced - $450/mo - up to 1000 subs.
  3. Professional - $800/mo - up to 5000 subs.
  4. Enterprise - Custom plans. Contact here.

Plugin Solution: Yes. Wordpress

Brands using Pelcro: Not disclosed

7. Piano Media


piano media iconPiano is used by some leading media houses to drive loyalty, revenue and engagement. It allows publishers to A/B test their paywalls and has the ability to detect the ad blockers. It supports audience segmentation and gets adjusted to all the devices, channels and touch-points. It is a GDPR complaint and is flexible with all the languages, currencies, payment providers, tax codes, etc.

Pricing: Customized pricing is offered by the solution.

Plugin Solution: Integrates via a JavaScript code

Brands using Piano: FMG, Condé Nast, Stitcher

8. Pigeon

pigeon

Pigeon is a flexible and secure paywall that uses certain tricks to prevent hackers from breaking the paywall. It offers an easy installation that lets publishers limit the content access right away. Pigeon was originally built to help online newspapers protect their content but now with its metering capabilities has become a perfect match for any content publisher and private community.

PricingPigeon accepts a one-time payment of $1,500 to set up the solution and provide training to the publisher team. It also charges a 10% transaction fee every time the user makes a payment. To enjoy the paywall services and customer support from the Pigeon team, a monthly fee of $99 is charged by the solution.

Plugin Solution: Yes. It’s not available on WordPress or any other plugin platform. You have to purchase the software plugin through their website to integrate on your CMS.

Brands using Pigeon: Not disclosed

9. PayRead

PayRead

PayRead has been launched by Fortumo, 5 months back. It lets publishers identify and charge users through the most widely available mobile identity globally - a SIM card. It connects service providers with 350+ mobile operators across Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

Pricing: Customized pricing is offered by the solution.

Plugin Solution: Not available

Brands using PayRead: Schibsted, Aftonbladet, OLX Group, Magzter

10. Multipub

multipub

Working with 500+ publications, MultiPub helps publishers manage their website subscriptions efficiently by automating the recurring tasks. It tracks relevant details like price, start/end dates, payment date, related marketing efforts, and demographics. It helps publishers manage audience on a no. of levels. It lets them club separate, yet relatable, subscribers in a group making it easier to check the renewals. You get to generate group invoices, group renewal notices, and group shipping documents.

Pricing: An average price of $125.00/month/user is mentioned by many product ranking websites. But MultiPub asks you to fill out a form (linked above) to suggest a price quote.

Plugin Solution: Connects with an API.

Brands using MultiPub: ACBJ, Labor Tribune, ALM, New Moon Girls

11. Vindicia

vindicia

With more than 15 years in the industry, Vindicia has processed 600+ million transactions worth over $29 billion. It’s Vindicia CashBox is a complete subscription management solution that offers best practices to optimize customer retention and improve acquisition rates. It provides opportunities for subscription lifetime, pay-per-use, add-ons, multiple invoicing choices, payment aggregation, virtual currency support, and a complete range of payment types

Pricing: Vindicia offers a free trial and a subscription-based pricing.

Plugin Solution: The solution is connected via an API.

Brands using Vindicia: Turner, EROS NOW, FreedomPop

12. Zlick

Zlck

Zlick is a one-click payment method that helps the websites allow readers to buy content at all levels. Publishers can track the user behavior live and implement the tips suggested by Zlick to maximize on their subscription revenue. Readers get the option to select if they want to make a single article purchase or buy the entire subscription. It doesn’t require any sign ups or credit card details. Readers just have to click on the Zlick icon to continue reading and the payment gets added to the monthly phone bill. Easy.

Pricing: Customized pricing is offered by the solution.

Plugin Solution: No or not found

Brands using Zlick: BONNIER, ORANGE, axel springer

13. Pico

Pico simplifies member accounts and payments for many publishers. Known to deliver decent conversion rates for signups and payments, Pico covers everything from newsletters and memberships to virtual events and donations.

Pricing: Here’s the pricing model that Pico offers.

  • $0/mo - <500 subscribers
  • $5/mo - per 500 subscribers for 500 to 5,000 contacts
  • $5/mo - per 1,000 subscribers for 5,000 to 50,000 contacts
  • $5/mo - per 2,000 subscribers for 50,000 and more contacts

Plugin Solution: Yes, WordPress. For websites that are not on WordPress, there’s a simple JavaScript code that will help.

Brands using Pico: The Colorado Sun, Wait But Why, SupChina.

14. Recurly

Gunning for an easier subscription commerce experience, Recurly is helping publishers scale their memberships quickly. Their revenue optimization engine uses machine learning based on hundreds of millions of successful transactions to improve their billing continuity. As per the brand, this exclusive technology has helped them increase their monthly revenue by an average of 12%.

Pricing: Customized pricing. Contact here.

Plugin Solution: Not available. You’d have to connect via API.

Brands using Recurly: AMC Network, Sprout Social, Lucid Chart.

Before making a purchase, iZooto recommends you to understand and compare each option available so as to make full use of the monetization capacity of paywalls.

“I don’t think anyone is going to see this and say that ‘Wired is throttling freedom of expression’ or ‘Wired is desperate for our money’. They’re going to see this as: ‘Wired has a smart business plan that will help it navigate the next 20 years.’”

- Nick Thomson to NiemanLab

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