Paywalled Content: The Why, the What, and the How

Jan 24, 2022 22 min read
Paywalled Content: The Why, the What, and the How
“Thank you, Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”

This is what goes through my mind whenever I click on an article and a pop-up that looks like this appears:

Sorry, but the article you're trying to read is on the other side of this paywall.

The first reaction is one of outrage.

We expect content to be free. That’s the model that has worked for the internet in the past couple of decades.

There’s more content than ever before. The world’s collective intelligence produces exabytes of information every single day.

Yet, there was a time when we’d gladly pay for the content we wanted to consume. Before the internet, everyone would happily pay to read a newspaper or a magazine. There was the occasional ad, but we all knew that we had to pay for the privilege of consuming the creative output of an editorial team.

But then the internet exploded in popularity. Suddenly, anyone who wanted to write was a few clicks away from launching their own blog. Little money was needed to start a publishing business. There were no more gatekeepers. Anyone who wanted to was able to.

When blogs first hit the scene, people went on a quest for discovery, fueled by their curiosity. They were reading, subscribing, sharing, exploring, learning, and always seeking the next blogger who could fulfill their insatiable appetite for knowledge.

Over time, however, readers had to deal with the real possibility that the content on the web was truly endless.

At first, keeping up with all the blogs you followed was exhausting. A bit later, it became impossible.

Infinity made people tired and confused. The goal of any count is to reach the end, the goal of any exploration is to find new lands until there’s nothing left to discover.

The main drawback of a constantly increasing supply of content is the stagnant amount of attention. There’s too much content to consume and a finite number of readers with limited brainpower.

It’s easy to discard this notion, but content saturation has turned the web into a veritable land of the blind.

Even social proof is beginning to lose its persuasive effect on people. A follower isn’t worth much, especially when they are following so many blogs they just can’t keep up.

We now live in a world where people are so tired of being offered free downloads (e-books, courses, templates) that they don’t even type in their e-mail addresses to download them anymore.

Content has been free for so long that we’re half-expecting to be paid to read it.

That’s why going in the opposite direction is a powerful, yet underrated marketing strategy.

All the big content publishers are doing it. Medium is doing it, encouraging people to publish content behind its paywall.

Why shouldn’t you at least give it a try?

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