What is a Pay Wall?

This term is relevant for sites that monetize their traffic by selling paid membership products. A paid wall prevents visitors from accessing certain content or pages if they have not paid for a certain membership level, often prompting them to sign up.

Any site that has multiple membership levels will contain pay walls designed to keep non-members out and funnel them towards a membership or trial. Below is an example of a pay wall in action:

Example of a Pay Wall

This page appears when a visitor is trying to access a page that requires a different level of membership. As is often the case, this example prompts visitors to either log in or sign up for the required membership.

Pay Wall Logistics

When putting up a pay wall, the biggest decision that will be made relates to how much content to allow to be seen by non-members. In the example above, WSJ.com allows for only a very small preview; non-members are able only to read the first couple of lines.

Some sites will allow for a limited number of whole page views (more on this below) or a larger percentage of the page to be displayed as a “preview” of the membership benefits. Typically some form of compromise will fork best here; a pay wall should allow potential members to see some of the premium content, but not so much that there is no incentive to create a membership.

For more on this concept, see our entry on Freemium.

Free Walls

In some cases, the lines between free and paid walls begin to blur a bit. Below is a page from the Harvard Business Review highlighting multiple membership tiers. As shown, free members can access a limited number of pages before they have to begin paying:

Pay Wall Example on HBR.org

In this example, there are two “walls” that a regular visitor will encounter. First, the free wall will require them to register and provide certain information in order to access the first four articles.

Once HBR.org has determined that a visitor has viewed four articles, they’ll present another pay wall that requires a paid membership to keep reading.

Benefits of the pay wall

There are many benefits you can get as publishers using the pay wall or subscription model. Its includes: 

  • Ad-blocker become huge it makes the ads on your sites disappear from your visitors. Even though many ad networks now provide anti-ad-blocker technology. 
  • People hate ads. They were annoyed by ads event though the number is smaller on the news website rather than on social media.

  • Steady income for publishers, since it’s based on subscription. You can charge it annually or monthly
  • Increasing the audience’s trust and loyalty

Pay wall Tactics

There are several tactics publishers use when it comes to Pay walls

  1. Only display the title and intro of an article before prompting the reader to pay.

  2. Offer a limited number of articles for free, then ask readers to subscribe when that number is exceeded.   

  3. Sell subscriptions for removing ads. 

Pay Wall Platforms

There are a number of open source solutions available to manage member information and insert or remove pay walls as appropriate, including a Member.


What is a pay wall?

In short definition, Pay wall is a method of restricting access to contents via a purchase or paid subscription. 

What are the types of pay wall?

There are many types of pay wall includes the soft paywall (Metered Paywall), the hard paywall, server-side paywall, and browser-side paywall

Are pay wall effective for digital media?

Pay walls bring can benefits both for publishers and subscribers. For publishers, they can monetize and generate income from their customers without using ads.