When publishers put up paywalls they inevitably encounter what is not so flatteringly referred to as the 99% rule. This rule postulates that 99% of the readers who hit a publisher’s paywall are going to bounce out of the site, immediately.
This becomes the 99.9% rule when you look specifically at social referrals - those inbound links to a story on a publisher’s site that come from a friend’s email, Facebook post, Tweet or LinkedIn post.
As the image above from noted entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon illustrates, the frustration readers feel relative to accessing quality media is very real. The friction of paying to read what is likely a single piece of content is simply too high for even a friend’s recommendation to overcome.
What’s missing from the process of paywalls (and social referrals to media) is simply choice.
The ability for a reader to access the protected / premium content without having to directly pay for it is critical - especially when it comes at their friend’s recommendation. Note we’re stating “without having to directly pay for it” not “without having to pay for it.” This is a significant distinction as it is imperative publishers receive payment for their premium content. No one is naive enough to believe publishers can continue to exist and create quality content without revenue.
Today, with any paywall implementation a reader encounters the paywall and has a single choice - pay or leave. That’s it. Break out a credit card and make a purchase for access to, again, what is likely a single piece of content. It’s way too easy for the reader to just leave the site so that’s what they do.
What’s missing from this process is choice. Not “paradox of choice” choice - but a simple choice. An alternative. What’s missing is the opportunity for a reader to engage with a single piece of content while having the access to the desired story funded by a third-party. A simple example of a third-party is an advertiser.
When presented with this engagement opportunity the reader takes < 5 seconds to engage via a simple action and gains access to their desired content. That’s it!
With one very simple option, the paywall’s 99% rule is shattered. Everyone wins.
- Publishers receive revenue for their premium content via a unique engagement opportunity.
- Advertisers receive direct engagement with readers and realize tremendous message recall.
- Readers gain access to the premium content their friend’s suggested they read.
In a market of infinitely complex monetization strategies and highly nuanced business models, sometimes it’s the simple solution that can deliver the highest impact.