Complex Made Simple

Paywalls: If you don’t like them, you’re in the minority

Are you sick of those paywalls? Maybe you are, but many believe it’s only natural and not such a terrible thing to have

The rate at which users were asked to pay for content, or saw a paid offer, doubled during the pandemic The global payment gateways market size is expected to grow by $23.45 billion during 2020-2024 For the first time last year, newspapers made more money from subscriptions than from advertising

Are you sick of those paywalls? Maybe you are, but many believe it’s only natural and not such a terrible thing to have.

Are paywalls that dreaded?

Internet users are hitting paywalls across a range of media. Websites, news, and podcasts that were once free or easy to access now come at a cost, as a growing number of companies rushed to get behind paywalls over the last year.

According to analytics platform Piano, the rate at which users were asked to pay for content, or saw a paid offer on a news website, doubled during the pandemic.

Of the interesting soundbites we saw on the LinkedIn post, Sridhar Ramaswamy, co-founder at Neeva, believes the internet was never free as consumers have been paying with clicks servicing the ads industry and a handful of monopoly tech players who in turn required small businesses and content creators to pay to be seen.   

“We should view this shift as a good thing. I also think that there will be bundled offerings that will make it easier to access large swathes of paywalled content. There is an opportunity here,” he said.

Bill Ayers, SharePoint/Microsoft 365 Architect, opined that “We’re starting to see an increasing desperation to monetize content, to the detriment of the Internet.” He said the net is also fraught with fraud risks.

Meanwhile, Matt Bailey, who teaches marketers how to turn data into action, doesn’t see publisher paywalls as a bad thing. “It means less ad-supported content, and you pay for the content you value. Publishers that rely on subscription revenue instead of ads tend to be less biased and more trustworthy,” Matt said.    

Payment gateway growth

The global payment gateways market size is expected to grow by $23.45 billion during 2020-2024, progressing at an annual rate of almost 17% during the forecast period.

The focus on high customer satisfaction, high adoption of contactless payment solutions, and increased use of m-commerce are some of the major factors propelling the market growth. However, factors such as privacy and security concerns, threats from open-source payment gateways, and high entry barriers may impede the growth.

Paywalls: a run for your money?

Just as cable introduced a paid layer to television in the 1980s, the internet’s paid layer is taking shape 40 years later.

For the first time last year, newspapers made more money from subscriptions than from advertising, according to Pew Research Center.

Since March 2020, the number of consumers who said they are willing to pay for five or more streaming services increased from 9% to 16%, according to data from Magid’s latest Video Entertainment Study. Fewer people said they were willing to spend money on just one service.

Even podcasts, traditionally the most open and freely available media via RSS feeds, are moving behind paywalls.

Apple and Spotify both added subscription podcast features this year, competing with Wondery, which was recently purchased by Amazon.

Cloud gaming, the adult entertainment platform OnlyFans, even car features like heated seats, are all relying on a subscription model.

Jessica Lessin, CEO and founder of The Information, a high-end subscription news service said that “Without subscription models, huge swaths of important public information simply wouldn’t be produced.”

However, all things free remain hugely popular online. Many paywalled products offer some free portions. And online advertising, which supports free services, shows no sign of stopping its growth.