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Mighty Encyclopedia


What is a paywall?

A paywall is a digital gate that is used to monetize content, either completely or partially restricting users from accessing it until payment is made. Paywalls are most common on subscription-based platforms or sites.

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Often paywalls are incorporated into content or websites in such a way that users can sample before purchasing a subscription. This is called a “soft” paywall. Many news outlets use this structure, for example, allowing users to read 5 free articles a month before charging for access. Soft paywalls can also be used to create different tiers of memberships.

So, for example, someone might start a free online community but charge for a premium membership that would include access to additional features–like a mastermind or online course.

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A “hard” paywall, by contrast, is when content is completely gated and inaccessible without purchase. This can make it harder to sell since customers don’t get the “free trial” effect of the soft paywall. But a hard paywall may be a good fit in cases where content is either unique or exceptional enough that subscribers will spend the money upfront.

Either way, if you’ve ever seen a pop-up that says something like, “Log in or subscribe to continue using our site,” you’ve experienced hitting a paywall. Paywalls are evolving with the increase of blockchain techology and crypto -- for example, you can now monetize a community on Mighty Networks using token-gating!

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Paywall examples

  • A news site requires a subscription for readers to read more than 5 articles.

  • A free membership site has paywalls on certain spaces.

  • Building a token-gated space that includes a course and premium content.

  • A blog creates a “members only” premium section by putting a paywall around some of its content.

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Examples of paywall sites

  • The New York Times instituted a soft paywall in 2011, and in 2020 it became a larger revenue source than print newspaper subscriptions with over 8 million subscribers.

  • Wired launched a paywall in 2018 and reported a 300 percent increase in subscribers during their first year.

  • Substack has 1 million subscribers for individual newsletters through the site. Readers can sample a couple of newsletters in each publisher’s archive to see if they like it, but then must pay the subscription fee to continue.

  • The Economist has 1 million subscribers and uses a paywall that lets readers access the first few paragraphs of an article but pay to read further.

Now Read: How to Make Money Blogging

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