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The required functionality of metered paywalls

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The Metered Paywall is amongst the most popular methodologies for subscription-based businesses, having been originally been pioneered within the digital publishing space by the FT back in the late 1990’s.

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Today, the majority of the larger-scale financially successful newspapers and magazine properties utilise the model as it (1) enables the publisher to vastly increase its potential audience by opening up the site to Search Engines such as Google, to social media properties like Twitter, Facebook, et cetera; and (2) it enables self-selecting conversions, where if a user is already accessing the property then that user likely values it and is thus more likely to want to continue to use it.

In-short, the Metered Paywall allows digital publishers to offer visitors a certain number of free articles per month, complete with unobtrusive reminder after which a ‘velvet rope’ is lowered. To access any more content during the defined time span then the visitor must pay.

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No implementation of a Metered Paywall will be alike. The number of free to access articles each property will be offer… and of what content type; and over what timeframe will be different. These are vital decisions that any publisher within the membership economy will have to decide.

Continued research and analysis will need to be carried out with existing users to ensure that you do not lose members because of the limited free access.


Below is a concise list of the functionality required as part of a Metered Paywall solution for the membership platform. The functions that have been listed act as MVP for subscriptions management:

METERED ACCESS – The basis of the paywall is the ability to limit the number of articles based on cookies.

MULTI-LEVEL SUBSCRIPTIONS – This gives the property flexibility in its subscription offering.

For example, you can have 3-month, 12 month subscriptions, or PAYG monthly subscriptions to a nanotechnology site, to a genomics-based site, or for all.

API TO EMAIL – The paywall will need to integrate with whatever Email broadcasting system you choose to use, such as Mail Chimp.

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ARTICLE NAGS – A fundamental part of the Metered Paywall model is the ability for present an article countdown.

For example, if you were to offer the visitor 3x page views per month free access then each of those three pages should have a countdown nag on them telling the user that they only have 3, 2, 1 articles left.

MULTI-DOMAIN – The paywall will need to work both on all the various websites within the network. Additionally, it will need to be able to work on sub-domains.

IP EXCEPTIONS – This will enable people in the office to continue to have full access. Additionally, it will allow you to sell subscriptions to libraries, et cetera. ¬ĖCommercially, this could be a good new revenue stream.

SUBSCRIPTION MANAGEMENT – The ability to add, edit and search subscribers.

BUSINESS RULES – The solution will need to be able to handle different types of content, with different privileges.

For example, the website may offer a free report, but only to paid subscribers.

CLEAN SEF URL’S – The URL of each content item must remain as is; and free from redirects. I have dealt with URL’s that included redirects based on user session within them. Absolute disaster.

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CMS INTEGRATION – The paywall solution will need to integrate seamlessly with the content management system. This means that the editor can set the rules quickly and easily (or the development team can set them automagically) depending upon strategy.

REPORTING – Management will need to know exactly how many subscribers each vortal has at any one time; and importantly for marketing, what the usage of that subscriber is when the subscription term is up et alia.

GATEWAY – The paywall must integrate with the existing payment gateway.


Along with the core functionality of a Metered Paywall, the functions below are deemed important for the platform:

COUPON GENERATION – The ability to create coupons opens up a number of options for the platform. In-short, with this functionality you create the possibility to offer a new Student subscription; along with discount offers for specific users.

GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS – In my opinion this functionality is vital. The functionality behind this enables a third party to purchase a subscription on behalf of somebody else, thus increasing the potential of the site. In-turn, this enables businesses, government, or NGO’s to buy a subscription based on a ‘seats’ model.