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Digital Publishing continues to be a challenging industry. For a number of years, several publishers tried a pure advertising model but realized that it’s unsustainable. Now, the pendulum is swinging for subscriptions and paid newsletters. A high number of publishers are experimenting with different types of paywalls to maximize the audience conversion to paid subscribers. Paywall restricts access to content. Paywalls have been always popular with large, legacy media and Publications sites. There are four basic types of paywall:

  •  Hard Paywall: Hard paywall are usually integrated on large legacy media sites like ‘The Economist’ increasing overall revenue.
  •  Metered (Soft): Metered paywall are often the best option for newspaper publishers. Metered paywalls maintain balance of adding additional revenue without alienating the entire readership.
  •  Freemium: Freemium Paywall are best suited for B2C and B2B marketing content sites.
  •  Dynamic: Dynamic paywall provides more in-depth understanding about a user, specific individual or group and effectively increases the chance of conversions of audience to purchase content.


Large & established publishers since the last decade have been experimenting with various paywall solutions to increase their revenue streams through paid subscriptions. The small publishers on the other hand, have focused more on maintaining rich audience profiles to make them more lucrative for advertisers. With challenges in sustaining pure advertising based models, global concerns about privacy and the current focus on first-party data, even small and mid-sized publishers are turning to paywall solutions to strategize on content monetization.

Choosing the right paywall is not always easy, but with continuous research, deeper audience analytics, and AI models, paywall implementation is a hot topic among publishers.

While thinking of the various paywall models, it is helpful to segment the online publishing market.

  1. Large Publishers / Newspapers (The Economist, Wall Street Journal, NYT, Washington Post): The content provided by these publishers is premium and of high value. These publishers experiment with many types of paywall solutions, with more focus on metered, dynamic and freemium paywalls. They invest heavily in audience acquisition strategies and offer free content on google and social channels. They also focus on paywall solutions that allow them to experiment with several models, and offer robust management of compliance to privacy laws. These publishers tend to use premium paywall solution providers.
    Recommended Paywall Solution Providers: Piano, Pigeon etc. 
  2. Small to medium sized publications / Regional & Localized Content Providers: This segment of publishers have limited Audience and limited Budget allocated for acquisition of paid subscription. They may benefit from a freemium paywall and / or a combination of dynamic / data-driven paywall using AI to determine highly probable “subscribers”. This allows them to put their premium content behind a paywall. They continue to make advertising revenue from “free” readers while nudging interested users towards a subscription option. Another factor that is closely considered for such publications is whether they have closed circulation. Such publications collect rich audience data in exchange of free content. In such cases, paywalls like PSA have stronger feature set to cater to readers of “closed circulation”
    Recommended Paywall Solution Providers: Freemium paywalls and/or a combination of dynamic paywall, Paywalls with focus on closed circulation audience. Examples: PSA, MediaPass. 
  3. Small to medium B2B publishers having niche content (highly regulated content): These publishers are small, but their content is highly valuable, such as those serving the financial industry around regulations and compliance requirements. The content of such publishers is extremely valued and is typically put behind a hard paywall. These publications also experiment with ‘time-walling’ their content, meaning, their recent articles are free but access to their older content is behind a paywall.
    Recommended Paywall Solution Providers: Hard paywalls e.g. Piano, Pigeon 
  4. Professional associations: Professional audience have a heavy focus on membership and subscriptions. They deliver content through print as well as digital mediums. These publishers also implement paywall solutions that attract “readership”, with a very direct focus on converting “readers” into “paid subscribers”. They tend to implement hard paywalls or metered paywalls expecting readers to pay for the content.
    Recommended Paywall Solution Providers: Soft (Metered) Paywall E.g. Piano.

Hope you all find this helpful. We would love to hear about what are the various ways in which you choose publishing.

About the Author

Rajesh is responsible for leading teams to deliver the project(s) that span across one or more business units. His role extends to build new partnerships with customers and vendors, in addition to managing the existing ones. He has played a pivotal role in presales, project management, manage key accounts and project deliveries. He oversees entire processes from conceptualization, design, and development to customer satisfaction.