Metered Paywall

Kevin M. Cox 8 years ago in BLOX CMS updated 8 years ago 5

Is anyone running a metered paywall (vs. a hard paywall)?

We’ve started discussing the pros/cons prompted by this article:


I’d appreciate any feedback y’all have on the subject.


When we went live with BLOX Zen in October 2014 we switched from a hard paywall to a metered paywall. It was something we wanted to do before BLOX but as we were looking at BLOX we chose to just wait. I expected a little blowback but I can't remember anything negative from our readers. A few times we've had calls saying "I was due for more free stories yesterday but it still says I can't read them."

Our meter is set to 5 free stories a month and 10 more if the user is registered(but not a paid subscriber) on our website. So 15 stories per month. A lot of people will never see the paywall message.

Thinking back to a hard paywall really makes me question why we did that in the first place(apart from the fact that metering wasn't big until the past few years). Hard paywall or metered paywall aside a lot of people just aren't going to subscribe, period. I would rather have the site metered to get the pageviews.

Our e-edition is totally behind the paywall though. And a lot of people subscribe just for the e-edition.

One believe I have...if you're in a metropolitan area that is covered by a lot of news organizations I don't see a benefit to a hard paywall. If readers can get the same news from another local source when your site requires a subscription they're going to go to the other site. We aren't in a big metro area but we still choose a metered paywall. If you're the only news media outlet in town a hard paywall would make more sense.

I think in today's world a hard paywall is a big turnoff for people. If I knew a site had a hard paywall and I wanted to read something but wasn't interested in a subscription I think in my mind I would just not bother going to the site.

TLDR; I think a metered paywall allows you to build a relationship with a reader that wouldn't happen with a hard paywall.

Thanks Nick, we definitely appreciate the feedback. You make some great points.

We’re inside the Houston Metroplex so we do have to fight that effect of other outlets having something for free. That has actually shaped our current policy in that we put things that other outlets are covering in front of the paywall, but exclusives or more “premium” content behind the wall.

The relationship building is exactly what got us started on our current discussion.

Bumping this back up to see if anyone else has feedback on metering. We're still talking about making the switch.

Right now we have a hard paywall but manually exempt (via section tags) about 40-50% of our content that meets certain criteria.

Kevin, we run the metered paywall. It works about as you would expect. I am not familiar with the details of the hard paywall, but that model would be more enforceable than the metered paywall, because all of the tracking of the metering is done on the client, so it's easy enough to sidestep.

In a hard paywall situation, you would just check if the logged in user can read the article and if they can, display it. On a metered paywall, you allow them a certain number of free views, but you store which articles they have read and how many they have left in a cookie/local storage on the web browser. Because of that default-on situation, the paywall is bypassable. It also has the side effect of skewing your analytics, as analytics cookies are getting cleared more often. So session numbers and New User % numbers that Google attempts to tabulate are probably inflated.

Private browsing modes are available on all devices now days and that's all it takes to defeat the metered paywall, as the client stores the info. Depending on your user base, who knows how much attrition that results in?

Our paywall has always been porous and we've just lived with it. As Nick says, it's more important to build that relationship. Re: advertising, there are some issues. Ultimately, network ads don't pay the bills, so increasing page views at the cost of subscriptions is probably not going to net dollars if you can't sell guaranteed inventory to local advertisers. You're just going to make more inventory that you can't really move. These are some questions we've had to think about with our own site.

Interesting. What about for logged-in users, is that tracked on the server side?