Paywall vs. Subscription: Monetizing Your Website Content

Depending on the type of small business you run, you may put a lot of effort into generating quality website content. Your business may even be centered around content, for example if you publish an online magazine. You can choose to monetize that content with sidebar advertising, but more and more consumers are finding ways to block ads on their connected devices.

Another option is to require advance payment to view your website content. Whether you are trying to monetize your content or simply gather customer information, there are two options to choose from.

Paywall vs. subscription

The term “paywall” technically includes all types of paid website viewing, including subscriptions. For the purposes of this article, a paywall refers to a pay-per-view model.

When implementing a pay-per-view paywall model, website visitors are required to pay to view individual pieces of content. With a subscription model, website visitors purchase access to your full array of content for a specified period of time.

In both options, you can choose to allow website visitors to view a portion of your content for free. Have you ever visited a news website and been shown a message informing you that “You’ve used one of five free articles this month”? Consider how you might help build your paid audience using a small amount of free content.

In the paywall vs. subscription debate, there is one unifying advantage: the ability to gather customer information. Remember, you can include required fields beyond billing information within your payment form. Consider asking for things like gender and age to learn more about the type of customers your content is attracting. These details can help to inform bigger business decisions down the line.

Why choose a pay-per-view paywall?

Does your website include content that customers may need once and never again? If you offer “how-to” articles or seasonal content, you may find that a portion of your website audience is composed of one-time visitors.

By checking your Google analytics, you can gauge how much of your website traffic is composed of those one-time visitors. If those visitors are staying on your website for long enough to read — and refer back to — an article, then they may have found your content useful despite the fact that they never returned.

In this case, a pay-per-view paywall model is the best option for monetization. Customers who are looking for a quick solution will be reluctant to subscribe to an entire website to gain access to only one article. So by paywalling individual articles, you can still monetize your content.

Why choose subscription?

Subscription-based models allow you to charge more money per transaction and may result in you netting a larger profit from your website. That said, if you are going to sell a subscription to your website with the promise of quality content, you should feel confident that you can deliver on that promise.

According to Forbes, subscription models have gained popularity due to both access and efficiency. Think about your TV or music streaming services. You may not watch or listen to all of the titles available to you, but you could, and that’s the appeal. By offering a subscription to your website, you need to be sure your content is abundant, varied, and valuable.

Regardless of the paid model you choose, remember that both paywall and subscription websites require more in terms of customer service. And that’s a good thing! You now have the opportunity to build a community with your customers. After all, they’ve invested in the content you’re producing.

Thousands of small businesses and online stores call home.

Whether you’re looking to promote your business or share your story, we have a plan that’s right for you.

Create your own website

Bridget M Burns

I live in a renovated barn with my husband, two kittens, and a baby on the way. I am currently building my business as a freelance writer, and stay busy finding new ways to promote my work online. In my free time, I enjoy reading, cooking, exploring, and late night games of Scrabble with friends.

More by Bridget M Burns