Paywalls & Publishers Part 1: Where Did Paywalls Come From?

The internet has utterly transformed the way that we consume the written word. In the past newspapers and magazines were the trusted, go-to source for news and entertainment, but readers now rely on the web to find out what is happening in the world around them. This shift has had dramatic effects on how content creators earn money for their hard work.

In June 2015, the readership of print newspapers had fallen by 25% since 2011. After having comfortably dominated for over 100 years, print publications desperately needed to find a way to react to this changing landscape. So, the first newspapers began using paywalls on their websites to supplement their revenues which had been slashed by this fall in print sales and the use of ad blockers.

Larger publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe led the charge, implementing paywalls to bolster their online earnings and to try and turn readers back to print versions of their publications, where advertisers paid significantly more to appear when compared to websites.

These initial paywall experiments earned their builders varying degrees of success, and provided other publishers with valuable data and statistics that informed their decisions. Other smaller publishers followed suit and in today’s landscape there now exists a blend of paywall strategies that can be found across the web.

In fact, both Google and Facebook are offering paywall options to publishers to sweeten the deal when it comes to Instant Articles and Accelerated Mobile Pages.

But while the reasons that publishers began creating paywalls are clear, are they the correct route for publishers to take? Are those paywalls justifiable from a performance perspective? Which paywall options perform the best for publishers, and what are the ethical implications behind paywalls?

In the next post in this series, we will look at the arguments for and against paywalls. Stay tuned and see you there! In the meantime, to stay up to date on mobile monetization trends, be sure to subscribe to the blog using the form below.

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