Have you heard? Amazon has a paywall around its books, you have to pay to get them! ITunes has a paywall around its songs, you have to pay to get them! Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it’? So why call it a ‘paywall’ when you’re a publisher

The answer is, you shouldn’t. It’s not a wall, it’s putting a price on valuable content.

Too many publishers still seem to be confused about the different roles their content can play and what they get out of them. The concept of charging for content being a ‘pay wall’ is indicative of this confusion.

Let me be clear, free content is a very powerful tool for publishers, and I’m not suggesting that publishers stop offering it. Publishers have a great advantage in the new age of content marketing, in that content is their speciality and they have huge volumes of it. Offering much of it for free on the web is normally a key driver of traffic, both from search and social media perspectives, which supports ad dollars and leads to paying subscribers as well. (Sorry if I’m stating the obvious.)

But when it comes to charging for content, many publishers have tried to start charging for this same content, often by putting in a metered paywall after a certain point.

There’s a few newspapers I used to read who now do this, in my view, unsuccessfully. They offer me 5 or 10 or 30 low quality click-bait articles from them for free per month, usually articles that are similarly replicated all over the web. So why do they think I’ll  start paying to read 50 or 100 the same thing, when there’s plenty of places I can read the same articles for free?

I think a better strategy is to work out what content is actually worth paying for, and view that premium content as a separate offering. Whether you’re a major daily newspaper, or a quarterly niche publisher, you need a strategy that understands where the value in your content lies, and charges accordingly for that value.

People are not going to pay much in the long run for info they can get for free elsewhere, or is interesting but not essential, but they will pay for info they need and can’t get anywhere else.

Instead of putting up a Great Wall of Pay through the middle of their websites, driving away loyal readers, why not zoom in to where the value is. To stretch the metaphor; keep your garden open and unwalled, but have little shops inside where people can buy items of value that they need.