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Paywalls are very popular with online publishers today, with over half of all publishers said they would be focusing on subscriptions this year, according to this report. Some publishers that have offline publications are using online subscriptions to fill the gaps in their revenues.
But what about online publishers without an offline component, like bloggers and online magazines? Can you put up paywalls for your content too?
Yes, you can. And if you’re running a WordPress site, there are several ways you can add a paywall to your website to generate income from your content. Let’s take a closer look at why you’d want to add a paywall and how to do it.
Why Use a Paywall?
Paywalls are ways of locking your website content until a reader-pays to access it. Payment is done through a financial subscription or other action such as sharing a message on social media or providing an email address.
Newspapers and magazines are the most obvious example of paywalls, such as The New York Times (NY Times) or Fast Company.
Some websites use paywalls to give readers access to a limited amount of free content before asking for payment. Medium, for instance, gives readers access to three free articles a month before requiring payment, while the NY Times gives you five articles for free every month.
A paywall can be an excellent way to monetize your website and generate more income than traditional advertising or sponsorship options. It’s also a good indicator that you’re offering premium content to people, making them more likely to pay for it.
That said, if you are using a paywall, your content has got to be high-quality. Otherwise, no one will pay for it. Create the right content, however, and you’ll have no issues.
Before we continue, you might be wondering whether adding a paywall to your site is the same as offering membership subscriptions. In a word, it’s not. Memberships generally offer different levels of membership and access to different types of content on a site. Paywalls are typically single-level models and offer a straightforward exchange of money or information for content.
Memberships are a great way to foster relationships with a community of people and offer them access to premium content and services. Paywalls are a scalable way to monetize a website and its content more linearly.
If you want to add a paywall to your website to generate revenue efficiently and increase conversions, here are five different paywall models you can use.
Creating a Paywall on Your WordPress Site
Adding a paywall to your WordPress site is relatively easy. Deciding on the type of paywall to add will depend on your site’s goals and how the paywall can help. There are five main models of paywalls you can add.
1. Pay-Per-View Paywall
In this type of paywall, readers are shown the article’s title and an excerpt or abstract first, then prompted for payment to read the whole thing. Gartner does this with their research insights.
Websites that do this generally produce high-quality research information and reports that cost a lot of time and effort to produce.
2. Free Trial Paywall
The free trial model works well for paywalls too. You give access to exclusive content such as reports, infographics, and courses for a defined period before asking for payment. This way, people get a preview of what you offer and if they want to continue accessing or reading it.
3. Subscription Paywall
This is the classic paywall model and the one we’re most familiar with. You pay a monthly or annual fee to get unlimited access to the content. When the subscription runs out, the person is locked out of the site until they renew.
Patreon and Substack run this way, asking for monthly subscriptions from supporting readers. Jason Resnick does this on the landing page for his online community, Feast Club.
4. Metered Paywall
The metered paywall gives access to some of your content regularly, while asking fans and frequent visitors to subscribe for unlimited access. Medium is a classic example of this, as people get free access to three articles per month. Once you’ve exhausted the three articles, you cannot see any more content unless you subscribe (or wait till next month.)
5. Micropayment Paywall
Apps have perfected this model by asking for payment for individual items such as singles from albums (iTunes) or in-game purchases (any gaming app.) But you don’t just have to ask for money in return for giving access to your content.
Marketing Profs does this well by asking people to subscribe for free to the site before they get unlimited access to articles, insights, and reports.
Readers are more likely to sign up to continue reading because it’s free. Once subscribed, they’ll see the additional benefits if they become a paying subscriber, but there’s no pressure to upgrade if they don’t want to.
This model works well with sites like Marketing Profs that have a lot of high-quality content and potential upgrade options.
Now that you’ve seen the paywall options you can add to your website, let’s look at how you can add one to your WordPress site.
How to Add a Paywall to Your Website
You can add a paywall to your WordPress site through various plugins. The one you choose will depend on the paywall option you want to use.
Here are a few paywall plugins you can install today.
MemberPress (All Paywall Options)
With its powerful access rules, full subscription management, simple payment gateway integration, and easy setup, MemberPress is a good option for any WordPress site. You can set up paywalls on posts and pages, create access rules for your digital file uploads, and display specific content based on a reader’s membership level. It works with all the major payment gateways and email marketing apps out there, so you can integrate all parts of your website and online business.
Leaky Paywall (Metered Paywalls)
Ignoring the name, Leaky Paywall is a flexible metered paywall plugin for WordPress. Website owners are using it to grow visitor traffic, increase subscribers to their email lists, and improve organic search results. It integrates with both regular and multisite WordPress installations and third-party apps like WooCommerce and Pipedrive.
Leaky Paywall offers flexible metered paywall options, comes pre-configured for all the major payment gateways, and, best of all, is completely free. You only pay for any transactions handled by one of the payment gateways, such as Stripe, PayPal, and Apple Pay.
Cleeng (Pay-Per-View, Trials, Subscription, Micropayments)
Cleeng offers a wide range of features for paywalls on WordPress sites. It includes an easy-to-use trial subscription feature with over 60 couponing options, so that you can test different trial lengths, offers, and more. With people spending over 3.5 hours per day viewing websites on their mobile devices, Cleeng makes it easy to keep certain content for your mobile users and set up a segmented revenue funnel.
Where it excels is in its video curation options. You can collect pay-per-view fees for live videos, subscriptions for unlimited access to all recorded content, and micropayments for individual recorded videos.
MediaPass (Subscription, Metered Paywall, Micropayments)
Another cloud-based option, MediaPass is a free app for websites that lets you offer different subscription options to site visitors. You’re only charged a portion of each paid subscription the app processes for you which most plugins and apps do too. It gives you several options to present the paywall, such as a full-page overlay, a pop-up window, or in-line access. You can use it to fine-tune the content you restrict from visitors, such as categories, posts, pages, or even a series of articles. It’s a good solution from a site owner looking for a turnkey solution for your website.
WP-Members Membership Plugin (Metered and Subscription)
WP-Members is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to add a basic paywall to your website. With it, you can restrict posts, pages, and custom post types to registered members, create a post excerpt to display on locked posts, and manage registrations all on your website.
Upgrade to the premium version to offer paid subscriptions, integrations with WooCommerce and email marketing apps, and member page tracking so you can see what content resonates with your subscribers.
Paywalls are versatile tools that offer WordPress site owners multiple benefits. You’ll open a new revenue stream, increase email subscriptions, and demonstrate that you’re a thought leader in the market.
Each paywall model has its pros and cons, so you’ll need to choose the one that works best for your site and the goals you want to achieve. Putting up a paywall is a big step for your website. At first, your readers may react poorly to it, but once they see why you did it and that you’re creating high-quality content for them, they’ll be willing to subscribe. Give your readers something valuable to subscribe to, and they’ll keep coming back.