World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Paywalls are cool, Smartwalls are cooler!

Paywalls are cool, Smartwalls are cooler!

Article ID:


By Nicolas Occhiminuti, CMO & Head of Zeens Lab

06.03.2018 – Paywalls are back! If you haven’t experienced it yet, you will soon realize that many of the media you are used to reading are now turning back to a paid model.

From the New York Times with its record subscriptions announcements to Wired teasing their upcoming paywall business model in Nieman Lab last Ferbruary, most major publishers today are coming back to the paywall.

My paywall is better than yours!

Why Paywalls?

Among the main reasons for this trend are:
a) the users’ growing intolerance to advertising. It is no mystery that adblockers adoption is on the rise worldwide and that fighting adblocks whether technically or legally will never be more than a short term patch.
On this regard spending more energy focusing on the user experience is more vital than ever.
b) advertising numbers don’t add up anymore. With platforms such as Google and Facebook eating more of the advertising pie everyday and driving market CPMs down, no matter how much you increase your traffic with social media and various acquisition strategies the odds are it will be more difficult than ever for your media to finance unique content creation this way.
c) in an ocean of fake news and clickbait content, people want quality content more than ever. One can indeed predict that readers will increasingly become aware of and measure the Return on their Personal Time Investment in media consumption. Today there is probably no better way to signal quality to the readers than by offering paid content. The industry indeed has to deal with what Cyril Petit, editor in chief at French newspaper Le Journal Du Dimanche calls “an incompressible cost of producing quality news », which you want your readers to become aware of by presenting them with paid options for their content.

This conjunction of events has paved the way for paywalls to make a slow but steady come back on a great deal of media websites. A great solution to both address readers needs for a quality -ad free- experience and content, and give way to a more sustainable model for publishers.

Your readers may like to pay for quality content, this does not mean they will be able to subscribe to each and every publication they enjoy reading.

In an ideal world, everyone would pay a subscription to each and every media they like to consume. And in that world, subscriptions paywalls would no doubt be a perfect fit. However, even in a context where paid content would be favored, the impact that social media and the web 2.0 have had over the last couple decades is such that a majority of people are not ready to give up their choice in sources of news and content for a unique subscription. In other words, as long as the article remains the currency, subscribed readers will remain a minority of the media’s audience. Even for the New York Times, it is most unlikely that subscribers can ever account for more than 5 % of the publication’s total audience.

People are just not ready to give up choices. Give them choices and get to know them !

This is why a paywall prompting readers to subscribe before they can access the content will hardly ever bring any sufficient conversion rate and should instead be replaced with a smarter system, where by the reader can enjoy freedom and choices when it comes to accessing content.

Source and first published:



Michael Spinner-Just's picture

Michael Spinner-Just


2018-03-13 09:42

Press releases fresh from the industry as they reach us. Read more ...

WAN-IFRA offers the supplier companies a plethora of platforms to present their valuable products and services to our top-level publishing community, with top-quality exhibitions, events, webinars and workshops, publications, newsletters and more. Read more ...