10 Tips to Convert Metered Paywall Visitors into Subscribers

How to use a metered paywall and write preview copy that increases your audience, revenue, and profits with a web magazine

metered paywall

In the words of David Ogilvy, “a good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” And when selling a web magazine, one of the best ways to do so, is by giving away enough content that it basically sells itself, but not so much that visitors don’t convert into subscribers. This is where a metered paywall can come in handy.

The biggest benefit of a web magazine, is that it can and should be deployed with an archive of back issues in the form of a web magazine library. This library is what can become your greatest lead generator if you create a metered paywall, or at the very least, create library preview pages. I’ll show you how to excel at both, below.


5 Ways to Excel at Using a Metered Paywall for a Content Library

  1. Our best practice for most niche publishers is to give away three views per magazine per month. Our publishing partners have found that this is a sweet spot that remedies all of the obstacles above.
  2. Make clear that the content is premium when they are reading it, with an alert or pop-up on the bottom of the page that tells them it’s premium and gives them the number of remaining premium articles they have access to.
  3. Design the paywall to be easily read, understood, and acted upon. That means designing in landscape for desktop, and in portrait for mobile.
  4. Include an email field in the metered paywall floaters, that way you can register their email and sign them up for your newsletter and if they abandon the paid order, you’ll still be able to engage with them.
  5. For our partners, we create four versions of each paywall floater to let the subscriber know where they are on their journey. The first three have links to login, continue to the article, and a button to subscribe. The only difference is the counter (which says if you have read 0 articles, 1 article, 2 articles). The last one has a message that they have viewed all their articles for the month, includes a link to login, a “not now” link that redirects to the home page, and button to subscribe.

5 Ways to Write Winning Metered Paywall Copy for a Content Library

  1. Create a Library Preview email that starts with a compelling 300 to 500-word excerpt from a piece of paid content on your website that tells a full and complete story, but still leaves the audience wanting more.
  2. Following the excerpt, add a sales pitch that promotes the remainder of your paid content. This sales portion can range anywhere from 300 to 1800 words, making it a highly testable element of the template. You should link to the other paid content available with a subscription, along with all of the other benefits of subscribing.
  3. Any emails that lead to a metered paywall should be formatted similarly to a post, rather than a typical promotion, and should have both a headline and a subhead. The goal is for the entire piece to look and feel more editorial, and less like promotional material. In fact, these previews can be recycled as posts on your website Portal or Blog.
  4. Ensure that your preview has a strong subject line and pre-header that will grab the reader’s attention. It is also important that the subject line and pre-header do not read as a “promotion,” but instead feel more editorially-driven and highlight the content within the preview.
  5. Consider the overall structure of the paid content on your site and how you can best create a paywall preview that promotes your unique offerings. For example, we currently write the library previews for one of our publishing partners who has over 50 separate Collections available in their web library. The editors for the website create curated Collections from existing content; this does not require any new content—just different ways to group their existing content. To compile a preview, our team chooses one article from a single Collection and writes a summary of that article that still feels like a complete story. In the middle of the piece, we tout all of the other articles in that particular Collection that the consumer would have access to with a paid subscription. At the bottom of the preview, the text leads into a larger pitch about all of the Collections as well as all of the other benefits and features of a library subscription.

What would you add to this list for converting metered paywall visitors?


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