Offsetting Ad Revenue with Subscriber-Only Content

Sovrn Publisher Advocate // January 4, 2022

In the world of online publishing, it takes more than high-quality content to make money. From advertising and affiliate marketing to premium content and subscriptions, publishers of all sizes are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to turn their content into reliable revenue. 

Whether you’re struggling to find the right strategies to increase your earnings or simply want to try out some new ideas, take the time to read 50 Ways to Make Media Pay. This new report, sponsored by Sovrn and published by What’s New In Publishing, explores both common and unconventional tactics to help publishers diversify their income opportunities.

5 Ways to Make Paywalls Work for You

One of the most common strategies for monetizing content is the paywall, which helps publishers drive more paid digital subscriptions by limiting access to content for non-subscribers.

The idea of restricting access to essential information came under fire at the height of the pandemic. As a result, many news outlets temporarily reduced or removed paywalls for COVID-related content. 

Despite this short-term fluctuation, paywalls are on the rise – and the trend toward subscriber-only content is expected to increase as publishers look for ways to offset lost ad revenue. Among the most common structures for online paywalls are:

  1. Hard paywalls Certain sites – like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times – keep all of their content behind a paywall, which means you must subscribe before you can read even a single article. Inflexible paywalls like this have become increasingly rare for all but the most niche publishers, as prospective subscribers tend to exit immediately when they encounter a paywall that requires payment to access any of the site’s content.
  2. Metered paywalls This type of paywall lets readers consume a certain number of free articles before requiring a subscription. Metered paywalls typically reset monthly, which gives visitors the option of paying for additional content now or coming back when more free content becomes available later. Research shows that in recent years, publishers have reduced the average cap on free content from 10+ articles per month to just five.
  3. Hybrid paywalls A hybrid or “freemium” paywall model lets publishers make certain content available for free, while placing other content behind a paywall. This blended structure was widely adopted by news outlets for COVID-related content, but is now being applied in a broader context. For example, USA Today has moved some of its more in-depth journalism behind a paywall, while the New York Times offers paid access to certain sections like NYT Cooking.
  4. Geolocation paywalls This model creates a variable paywall based on the reader’s IP address. Many newspapers use this location-based approach to ensure that local audiences have access to more content for free, while those beyond a certain radius will hit the paywall sooner. Geolocation restrictions can also be used to limit access to content that may not comply with local laws – for example, US publications that are not compliant with the EU’s GDPR requirements.
  5. Dynamic paywalls The rise of AI and automation in publishing offers a host of new opportunities to create smarter, more dynamic paywalls. Under this model, different users may encounter paywalls at different times, based on any number of factors: content consumption, on-site behavior, browsing history, subject matter, geography, and device type, to name just a few.

Download the full report for more ideas on leveraging paywalls, plus dozens of other strategies to make media pay through subscriptions, advertising, content-based strategies, and more.

More ways to Monetize with Sovrn

When you’re ready to try out some new monetization strategies, Sovrn can help! We made significant investments in new products and services throughout 2021 to help publishers diversify their revenue and maximize earnings.

  • Commerce: With the addition of price and merchant comparison technology to our Commerce offering, you can now earn more revenue from every click. Diversify merchants, improve conversions, and boost revenue by building price comparison widgets into your existing commerce content.
  • Advertising: We’ve made it easier to optimize every ad placement using “engaged time,” which measures not only when an ad can be seen but also when a user is actively engaged with the content. With engaged time, you can accurately identify your most valuable ad inventory and price accordingly.
  • Data: We’re working to provide publishers with a standard and scalable way to transact their first-party data, as the first SSP to support IAB Tech Lab’s Seller Defined Audiences Specification in We’re also helping publishers to increase the value of their proprietary data and create meaningful audience segments through data enrichment.

To learn more about these innovations – and all the other ways Sovrn supports publishers – just email us at and our team will be happy to help.

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