Are you in favor of publication paywalls or keeping content free-of-charge?

In the red corner! The undisputed champion of keeping print and online publications alive and bringing news, entertainment and interactive community services to those who choose to view it….Advertising Revenue! In the blue corner, an up and coming, nickel and diming contender, that is keeping online content away from the masses…The Paywall!

Who you got, who you got?

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Advertising Revenue vs. The Paywall

Conventional wisdom will tell you, that if you have a service that fulfills a need or a want…charge for it. Sounds like a good plan? These are not conventional times, people. With different media mediums spitting information at us from everywhere and at all angles, charging for the pleasure of reading your information has come to a crossroads. A magazine or a newspaper can choose to continue to distribute their sought-after information for no charge, and capitalize on the advertising revenue by target-minded advertisers that are looking to reach the publications audience, or they can put up a paywall and charge the critical ingredient that allows the success of those publications.

Paywalls…Don’t Do It

Newspapers, magazines…I hope you are listening up. Choosing to put up the barbed-wire fence, with your readers on one side, and your important content on the other side, is a monstrous mistake. Here is why:


  • You are sheltering your content
  • You are nickel and diming your reading constituency
  • You will lose advertising revenue, because power of audience will go down
  • Your brand will suffer, because of a drop of viewership
  • Your marketing will take a hit, because of the nuts and bolts of how you interact with your readers


Think long-term. Think Value

This is more than just a black or white choice of charging for your content. This is about holistic marketing. This is about image marketing. This is about LONG-TERM vision. You are sending a clear message to your advertisers and readers when you put up a paywall. You are saying, that you are desperate for revenue….you are saying that you are willing to cut off some readers from your content for a $30 per month subscription…you are saying to your advertisers that your bottom-line is more important than theirs. This fundamental, the last part of the last sentence, is one that is at the core of a solid marketing organization. Of course, we must always take care of our customers needs at all times. And the revenue will follow, if we remember how important our customers are to us. Publications are here of course to bring entertainment and news to their masses, but they also function as a marketing beacon for businesses and organizations that include this medium into their marketing mix. To advertise a businesses message to your audience is on the surface a good deal for the publication, because you are increasing your revenue in a way that someone paying 50 cents for a newspaper never will. But also, you are increasing the potential of that business or organization to succeed by putting their advertising on your content’s back. When you put up a paywall, the message is clear that you don’t really care about your advertisers needs. You are more concerned about your own needs. You are also sending a message to your readers, that you are willing to lose up to 25% of them because of this foolish decision.

And the winner is…

Obviously the winner is Advertising Revenue, however acting as the judges in this prizefight are the publications themselves. It is their choice…do they want to go for the quick buck (which still won’t even equal 10% of your gross revenue) and drop their advertising revenue in the meantime. Or do they find a strategy with their free content?

Market Your No-Charge Strategy

Your strategy could be, a new image marketing campaign…while your competitors are throwing up paywalls, you could stand alone and TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT. Market your strategy to your base, saying “LOOK AT US! We are not going to charge for our content, because we are committed to bringing our community breaking news, weather updates and information”. Market it to your advertisers, showcasing your intellectual approach to keeping your online medium very valueable, because you are maximizing the number of readers…not chopping down the tree.

Create New Retention Tools

Your readers come to you for one reason…information. Now is a good time to compound your returning customers and make your occasional viewer into a loyal return customer. Retention tools are a good way to create and maintain customer loyalty. They can take the form of everyday poll questions, customized content, customer loyalty reward programs…etc. Make your content and information resonate with your audience and advertisers will follow. Remember…this is long term vision.

Make More Money

Not only are your treating your readers and advertisers with respect by opposing the stupid idea of a paywall, but you are going to increase your revenue. The revenue brought from charging a subscription fee is peanuts. It will be a drop in the bucket for most publications. You will negate this “supposed” gain, by wiping out your online advertising revenue. Back to square one…but you will also alienate your readers and advertisers at the same time. So you will see a huge loss because of implementing a paywall. Use your thoughts about putting up a paywall as an opportunity. Re-brand yourself and keep caring about your two main constituencies, your readers and advertisers. DON’T ALIENATE THEM!

Are you in favor of publication paywalls or keeping content free-of-charge?

About the Author:

Alex Martinez is a web, digital and marketing enthusiast that believes in ethical marketing and business practices are the key to long term success.

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