Ever since ad blockers came into play the game has changed, both for advertisers and for website owners. While users were thrilled with the idea of ad-free content, this was a deathblow for publishers, who relied on ads as their business model. The first reaction for publishers was to try and circumvent ad blockers, triggering an everlasting cat & mouse game between the two. Later on, new tactics such as paywalls were introduced, intended to forcefully protect the publishers’ revenue, crucial for their survival.
Every internet user today is familiar with paywalls, used by many content providers such as The New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and many other major publications. Any user wishing to access the site’s content pays for that privilege, replacing the declining ad revenue publishers suffer from due to ad blockers. The concept behind paywalls is fairly simple, as it’s an adaptation of the print business model to the digital world.
The obvious question is can such a business model survive in today’s internet, which offers users endless free content? Here’s why paywall may not work for you:
Obstacle to Reach New Audiences
Big publishers that tested paywalls rely on their high-quality content in order to maintain their readership. However, for a smaller website, with a less loyal readership base, paywalls can be a significant obstacle when looking to reach new audiences, or even to maintain the current readership.
Need to Keep Content Unblocked
Even the biggest publishers find themselves up against the wall when covering stories with grave importance such as emergencies. In these cases, many publishers disable the paywall and grant all users access to relevant content. While this is a noble approach, the inconsistent strategy damages their revenues and might irritate paying customers, who feel they could have received the same content for free.
Bounce Rate Hike Leading to SEO Trouble
When adding a paywall, you can expect to have an increase in your website’s bounce rate. Such increase is dependent on the website layout and type of paywall (soft one that allows to view limited number of articles for free or hard one that does not show any content without signing up for a subscription). What is not dependant and very certain is that this metric will increase. This happens as many users leave immediately upon encountering the wall, gravely damaging the site’s overall traffic, and leading to long-term SEO issues due to the dropping metrics.
So What Now?
As opposed to paywalls, which offer a black and white approach, ad recovery services offer a dynamic solution which allows publishers to decide which advertisements they wish to present on their sites. Ad recovery solutions, such as Uponit, InstartLogic and Sourcepoint display ads to adblocking audience and bypass ad blockers. While some might fear this will infuriate users, who use ad blockers for a reason, ad recovery solutions actually allow the publishers to take control of the ads displayed on their sites and create a better user experience. They can decide not to display intrusive ads such as popup ads or ads containing questionable, and sometimes even harmful content. By allowing website owners to choose the ads on display, ad recovery solutions enable them to cut the middle man, leaving shady ad networks and ad exchanges out of the game. Ad recovery can also be used by publishers with paywalls to create an additional revenue stream, since most users don’t mind ads as long as they aren’t pesky and annoying.
While paywalls might be a good solution for big publishers with guaranteed audience, they also entail some significant built-in downsides. Every website owner should consider additional strategies to better address the advertisement world, and make the most of it without harming its users.