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Paywalls: Good for Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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When we talk to teachers, we often hear that they'd rather teach to students who want to be there, versus those who just show up. Likewise, a person who invests their own money into a membership will value their involvement and use more of the membership's resources than someone who got a membership for free.

When a person puts their own skin on the line, or adds tangible value in exchange for access to something, they tend to value it more highly than someone getting it for free. And when you get a captive audience, especially an audience that wants to be there, the levels of engagement are higher.

Why, then, should we be against paywalls on the Internet? Truth is, not only should we in the advertising industry advocate for paywalls, but should push our media partners to jump onto the paywall bandwagon. 

In some cases our media partners will no doubt lose some readership at first. We know this. But with a smaller audience, the media group establishes a niche, which means that if they wanted to charge more for advertising to brands and agencies, they can. And creating higher advertising prices for brands can help take some of the burden off the consumer. Just because a paywall is being established doesn't mean it has to be expensive. Advertising can and will make sure the access is still affordable.

Online media definitely has an uphill battle when it comes to switching to a paid-access model. Since the Internet was introduced as free, it will be difficult to convince consumers that they should start paying for something.

AdLand, that's our cue.

Let's help our media partners shift perception about paywalls. Yes, we may need to pay more to get on those platforms, but the audience will be more targeted and more engaged, which could lead to higher conversion rates. Creating a gatekeeping system like a paywall can help keep certain media platforms relevant. In today's world, it is not the quantity of people reached, but the quality of the leads. Our colleagues who champion predictive modeling and algorithms to find customers should love the idea of paywalls; it bounces out the passive consumers and captures those who are looking for information.

But there is a catch; when working to advocate a paywall system, there cannot be a way for readers to pay to opt out of advertising, which is a growing conversation between media and consumer groups. We must show consumers the difference of ad-supported media and unsupported. Is the value worth it? To some, but more likely not enough to be sustainable. 

Advertising isn't going anywhere. In fact, advertising can continue to help the media landscape shift to a more sustainable model.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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