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What Paywall Strategy Can Save Newspapers In This Digital Age

Withstand print circulation’s decline, monetize valuable content and broach into a barrel of new source of revenue at a time of advertising sales drought. This course of creating a subscription barrier would seem to be attractive and convincing.

Diving in? Hold on. The thing about paywalls is that they have the risk to limit scale amid a time of war for attention. And publishers, especially today, need to attract audience among the digital natives who are bound to define our future.

That’s where a well-thought paywall strategy comes in handy. After all, the limits of a paywall pale in comparison with its benefits. Apart from obviously getting paid for well-written journalism, charging for digital access also allows newspapers to reduce their dependence on volatile advertising toward more solid revenue stream that is circulation.

Graham Charlton, editor-in-Chief of Econsultancy blog, finds out what paywalls work best for digital newspapers. He looked at 5 of the well-known and trusted US and UK newspaper brands: The Sun, The New York Times, The Times, Telegraph Media Group. and FT.com.

Using a mobile phone to bank and shop online

And based on 6 criteria: paywall announcement, free tastes/teasers, explanation of the proposition, comparison of different packages, explanation of benefits and trust/support, here is the gist of paywall approaches Graham found to be working:

  • Soft paywalls, which allow some free access, are better for user retention than hard paywalls. 
  • Publishers with hard paywalls are experiencing retention rates as low as 15-20%, with the figure for soft walls averaging 58%. 
  • This suggests that a hybrid approach is best for maintaining user numbers, social reach and search traffic, as well as pleasing advertisers.
  • It may also be the best way to attract new customers. After all, if users are familiar with the type of content, it’s easier to decide on a subscription. 
  • Tools like live chat and clear contact options are useful as it provides support for any potential subscribers with any questions.
  • The less information, faster checkout approach is more effective.


People are proven to pay for well-crafted news they can use
. More so, people are happier to pay for stuff on a mobile. The same person that will pay $4 for a lame ringtone on their cellphone will happily pay for a unique news in a niche. A paywall also gives you the right to hike up the price of your ad space in exchange for filtered, highly qualified audience. And there are a million more reasons to pay for digital media. If you want to see details of these findings, read Graham’s full article here. 

Subscription is just a matter of strategy and mindset. A newspaper that automatically adjusts its layout depending whether you’re viewing it on a PC, tablet or smartphone or a digital newspaper app that is accessible offline has more than enough appeal for paywalls to work. Try Realview for free and see how this “responsive” design comes alive with your very own content.