How many articles should you offer for free before the paywall?


On the surface, it seems like a fairly straightforward question. But when you start to dissect it, there’s so many factors at play…

  • The reader’s level of engagement (and finding the balance between frustration and engagement) 
  • The question of soft conversion steps, such as newsletter walls or registration walls, and how many articles to offer before and after these steps
  • The question of whether it’s more valuable to convert first and engage later (cyclone strategy) or engage gradually over time before converting to subscription
  • The age-old discussion of metered vs. freemium paywall models 
  • Your content (in-depth journalism, news headlines, opinion pieces…)
  • Your audience (B2B, niche…) 
  • Your revenue priorities — for instance, if you’re very reliant on advertising, then it might be better to offer more articles for free to support this revenue stream
  • What else should be given for free? Access to commenting, newsletters, podcasts…

So, firstly, let me clear something up — there’s no single answer to this question (sorry!). It depends on all of the above, and more. But what we can do is help you find the answer. 

In this article, we’ll look at some examples of publishers seeking to answer this question, what you can learn from these cases, which metrics you should consider when running your own tests and another important factor that we recommend you consider. 

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