3 Ways to Draw New Blog Subscribers Without a Paywall
Many websites have had trouble making ends meet. One alternative revenue model that’s frequently suggested involves subscriptions. Yet that approach comes with its own pitfalls – namely that too many people rely on paywalls, which by their very nature are alienating to the audience.
It’s a tough time to own a website, especially if you’re a publisher. According to digital marketing agency Global Web Index, approximately 47 percent of Internet users globally use ad-blocking software. Given the current state of digital advertising, I can’t say I blame them.
You already know that the well has been poisoned for anyone who wants to rely on ad networks as a revenue stream. You already know that you need an alternative where your budget is concerned – that’s why you’ve switched over to a subscription model.
Yet that tactic comes with its own set of pitfalls. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of relying solely on paywalls, blocking users off from the majority of content on your site. While this may inspire some people to pull out their wallets, most will simply throw their arms up in frustration and go elsewhere.
I’ll wager you’ve done exactly that at least once, yourself.
See, people hate Internet ads, but they hate paywalls almost as much. The Internet is rife with guides on how to bypass the paywalls on leading news websites. And what if your competitors are offering the same content as you are but aren’t walling it off?
You’re driving customers right into their arms. What can you do instead, then?
Rethink Your Website
My big issue with subscription paywalls is that they don’t ask the user to subscribe. They more or less demand it. They dangle the site’s content before users like a carrot on a stick, heedless of the fact that there are likely others offering very similar content for free.
Your first step to moving away from the paywall should be to redefine how you look at a subscription. It isn’t something you require of your audience. It’s something you ask them to do. Something people who love your brand can do in order to further support your content.
Of course, maybe you are asking your audience to subscribe. Maybe you’ve got calls to action in each blog post, and on each page of your site. My next question for you, then, is “can people find them?”
We are living in an era of pure information overload. In such times, the old adage that less is more inarguably applies. Take a look at your website, and consider whether or not there are any unnecessary elements— clutter that distracts people from both the content and the call to action.
Finally, make the subscription process easy. Offer multiple payment options in your shopping cart, and make cancellation simple and painless. Demonstrate that you care about your audience at every stage of the sales funnel, and they will repay you in kind.
You may also want to read: How Valuable Is Your Website and Why Do You Need To Know?
Instead of Locking Off Content, Provide Perks
Rather than giving people who aren’t paying a subscription less content, consider giving additional privileges to people who are paying. Make the lion’s share of the content on your site accessible. This will achieve a few things.
You’ll be able to cultivate an audience for your brand without frustrating visitors to your site. People will see that you’re creating valuable content without trying to jam your hand into their wallets, and they’ll appreciate it. This will generate interest and engagement, at which point you can drop hints about the perks of being a subscriber.
These could include:
- The ability to contribute content to your site, which could be published as editorials or opinion pieces.
- Additional value-added content like white papers or an email newsletter.
- Exclusive access to subscriber-only sales and discounts.
- If your site maintains a community forum, access to unique signatures and avatars.
- Removal of ads (assuming people aren’t already using ad blockers).
- Exclusive access to chats, seminars, or presentations hosted by you and your team.
You get the idea. You’re looking to add value to your subscribers to give them a reason to subscribe beyond “you can’t access your content unless you do.”
Ask People to Turn Off Their Ad Blockers (Politely)
A lot of sites try to prevent people with ad blockers from accessing their content. In my eyes, this is significantly worse than using a paywall. People block ads with good reason – too many web ads are either intrusive or actively malicious.
Be better than them. Police your ad network carefully, and be extremely strict about what sort of ads you allow on your site. More importantly, let your users know you’re doing this.
Establish that their privacy, safety, and experience are all priorities to you. And thank those users who disable their ad blockers. Pay attention to the users that do as well, as they’re likely to also be amenable to further supporting your website and your brand.
For certain publications, paywalls do work.
I know the Financial Times, Bloomberg, and The Harvard Business Review all use them to some extent. The thing is, these sites are all recognized as some of the best publications on the Internet. They’re well-established, well-known brands.
If you aren’t a thought leader like them, I’d advise against using a paywall, metered or otherwise. If you’re looking to establish a subscription-based revenue model, there are better tactics that prioritize, consider, and emphasize the end-user experience rather than your bottom line.