What is a Paywall? How Do Websites Benefit from It?

Since the advent of the internet, information has found a new medium for dissemination, it has found space in virtual reality and access to it is at everyone’s fingertips. It started with news agencies making themselves accessible online. In the early days, they were free, as they could sustain themselves through their traditional subscription models, retail sales, and advertisements. But the print medium (and its readership) has seen a more or less, steady decline since then. Consequently, in an effort to keep the business afloat, these agencies started charging a fee for accessing their content online. 

Paywalls restricts web content on websites while allowing access to certain users through subscriptions or similar methods. Many news agencies such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, etc. use paywalls to restrict their content so that they can ensure their quality by charging a fee. Distanced learning websites or any other information-related websites follow a similar design. There are few types of paywall and each of them is unique in the way they allow access to content.

Soft Paywall

As the name reveals, a soft paywall allows limited access to premium content. For example, news agencies like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal will allow you to read a certain number of articles in a month, and after exhausting the set number, you either have to wait for the following month or simply pay a subscription to continue reading. Academic sites like Jstor allow you to read a hundred articles per month. 

Hard Paywall

A hard paywall, as the name suggests, is a more severe restriction on the above-mentioned soft variety. Hard paywalls restrict web content at the outset, not allowing for any previews or reads to be done, with a subscription plan or a one-time fee being the only information the user sees. Websites that have hard paywall settings hide their content and even Google is restricted from accessing them and indexing it for their search engine optimization. 

As a starting point, you will most likely discover the above two varieties in most of your day-to-day web browsing. Other types of paywall are somewhat of a mixture of the above including those known as dynamic paywalls, which adapt to a user’s behavior or interaction with the website. If the user is casually visiting, then the articles remain free, but if the paywall detects a user frequently accessing the site, it will pop up with a subscription notice.

Credible Content

Naturally, there are positive reasons for having paywalls on websites. In a world where there is an overload of information and especially false information, paywalls can highlight those sites that offer genuine, quality news and articles. For a number of users, having labeled paywalled sites is beneficial. A recent poll highlighted this, where 67% of those asked, would be happy with having this information clearly displayed in their search results. 

Most of these sites require a subscription model as they have journalists and other staff that need to be financially backed. Thanks to paywalls, we can more accurately disseminate quality news and it can add real credibility to the sites that offer the same. 

Consistent Revenue

Paywalls can be a source of consistent revenue for the publishers. To sustain themselves, and keep their journalistic staff on board, these websites simply can’t operate without some kind of payment system installed. This, in turn, will allow them to continue to provide quality content and ensure the longevity of the business.


Quality content takes enormous effort and hard work, and hard work mustn’t go unappreciated. As such, paywalls provide security for the premium content on offer and help reduce the possibility of piracy of said information.

As an ongoing debate continues on the issue, it is obvious that there are valid reasons for paywalls to exist. In a world where “fake news” has grown beyond just a term popularised by a former head of state, having accurate and truthful information is paramount. Paywalls enable users to have peace of mind that the information they’re disseminating is correct and the websites that provide this can continue to function as a result.