Paid Content

Paid Content

After a few teething troubles, the no-charge mentality on the internet is finally retreating. Paid Content is more and more accepted by users. This is also due to the success of tablet PCs. We give some advice on how you can make paid content work for small websites, too.

Paid Content? What’s that?

Paid Content are all digital goods on the internet, like news or blog articles, music or videos which the user can see, listen to or download only after paying a certain amount of money. Website templates are part of this, too, actually pretty much anything that’s produced digitally and without a special customer order for downloading.

Why offer paid content?

The choice of websites has become huge, not only for users, but also for advertisers. Click-through rates per website are dwindling, so advertisers decide their ad placements by price when pages are similar. This means that refunding a website may be jeopardized.

To remain in the black nevertheless, it makes sense to put price tags on high quality or special-interest content you don’t get anywhere else.

How do I get my users to pay money?

Do it like the deli counters in supermarkets! Offer taste samples until the customer’s mouth waters! The New York Times for example allows users to read twenty articles per month for free. Those who haven’t had enough until then are forwarded to a pay page.

Other websites only make their customers pay for further and high class info for an article, like the German Stiftung Warentest who review and test all types of products.

When users can get the same information or digital goods elsewhere, it is hard to make them pay. However, if they save valuable time in researching important data which must be 100% correct, e.g. numbers and statistics at statista, this is also an argument pro paid content.

Exclusive information, high quality or special products thus have the best prerequisites of being successful as paid content.

Where do I put the barrier between free and paid?

With some offers – like website templates and the like – separating paid from free is very simple. Where to place the paywall in editorial content is quite hard to decide.

If you limit free access too much, you risk your reach shrinking and a consequent decrease of advertising revenue.

Before installing a paywall you should plan exactly which percentage of your content you want to make premium content.

In any case you need to offer teasers. A completely empty website with a plain login page will scare off any user. And a potential customer needs to know what he will get when he pays money for extended access.

So, describe which added value and exclusive content your customer will get when he pays a subscription or a one-off amount. Give examples or good previews!

In addition to current news, some newspapers also offer extra added value by opening their entire digital archive to subscribers. For one-off purchases like website templates you should give an exact preview, for music and video a short sample, and an excerpt each for all editorial content.

How do I serve paid content?

Generally, paid content is divided into subscription and single payments, but a mix of both is possible, too.

For editorial content you should prefer a subscription model – for long term customer loyalty. This is also the variation pay-friendly internet users prefer.

The website of Stiftung Warentest on the other hand gets lots of visits by users who only need information on one very special product. This is why they offer both – a time limited access to all content, and single-item purchases.

Pure single payments make most sense when customers really only want to acquire single digital goods. Nothing is more annoying than having to enter pay details ten times for ordering ten goods.

Which fees should I take?

The estimate for paid content needs to be well reviewed. Not only do you need to keep in mind general cost for production, overhead and allocation. Online pay providers ask a percentage of the amount paid as a fee. Paypal offers a possibility to calculate those fees online.

Also, you will need to take into account a low acceptance of regular users and thus a decreased reach. This may cause ad revenues – if advertising continues – to drop. You will need to create a combined estimate of advertising and paid content.

You may want to check your search engine optimization, to improve reach.

When you’re not able at all to assess your paid content project’s success and want to protect yourself from a wrong calculation, you can just start with “special offers” in the first month which you can increase afterwards, should that become necessary.

Only a few pages with paid content are in the black from the start. Thus, you should always remain realistic and keep a financial cushion for the first months.

Jump in at the low end

The smooth method of earning money with paid content: voluntary donations by the users! This is the alternative for all who want to do a test drive first or are just curious how users evaluate and accept the content offered.

The first step is to find a “social micropayments” provider like flattr. Here a user pays a monthly amount into an account, clicks all websites and articles he likes during the month, and after this time the amount is divided up among website operators.

Of course, in this model the amount paid does not reveal how – in terms of cash – the user evaluates the content, but many small clicks can be quite noticeable.

For user evaluation, it is better to use a service like Paypal, as does the fitness website If a user likes the workout video or post, he can buy the coach „a coffee“ through PayPal and say thank you with an amount of money he chooses.

Choosing a micropayment provider

There is a long list of micropayment providers. PayPal, ClickandBuy, Moneybookers, giropay… . You should not limit yourself to a single provider, but enable customers to choose from a selection. This increases their willingness to pay.

If they already have an account with one provider they will rather feel up to paying via this provider rather than needing to enter their details with a new micropayment provider.

The providers should also be reputable to qualify for working with you. A bad reputation of a pay provider or problems during the pay process may fall back on the content provider, too.


Paid content may not be your key to becoming rich, but it’s sure worth thinking about.

Especially with social micropayment services, there are many interesting possibilities for small website operators, bloggers etc., to have their content evaluated by the users and at the same time receive a little remuneration for the time and work invested.