If digital drives medias towards various monetization choices, the user experience is a central concern, at the heart of the conversion strategy.

Paywalls are at the center of several UX and UI issues: how to get a high visibility rate, how to be certain of the relevance of the design and the CTA while the implementation of A/B tests remains marginal?

Among the initiatives, the paradigm shift between a paywall and a data wall raises an interesting idea: minimizing the number of clicks and interactions to aggregate data that will help to personalize the experience.

From a stop to a start point

The paywall is nowadays a friction zone: blocked content, frustration and increasing bouncing rate. This negative aspect pollutes the basic message: quality content must be equitably remunerated and the value proposition of the media goes beyond it’s content.

Added to this friction, an extra effort is required for the user to free himself from the constraint of blocked content: going through the conversion funnel and subscribe.

Bringing interaction where there was none before creates a new contact area in which the media can communicate and engage the reader in a more casual way.

This can be a simple registration with few fields to begin to personalize the experience. We can also simply imagine an email request to interact in a more personalized way with the user via a newsletter.

This is a first step towards more commitment and ultimately a higher propensity to subscribe.

In addition, having an account created even without converting to a paid subscription makes it possible to collect valuable navigation and consumption data. It will then be relevant to use it to optimize the value proposition and reduce the churn when the user will subscribe.

Datawall, in practice

Several medias have set up a datawall to diversify their acquisition model. Through these three different examples, we can see the possibilities offered by this paywall model.

The Wall Street Journal

The WSJ’s strategy has always been clear: pay to read our content, whether offline or online. With the expansion of the audience of the website and the willingness of the journalists to share their content, this model set strong limits on the development of the global audience. As with many other media, reader’s frustration did not stimulate growth.

A test was set up to offer a 24-hour guest pass requesting the email, allowing access to the entire platform. The basic idea remains constant, providing flexibility to the user to optimize engagement through a win-win proposition.


In addition to this initiative, the newspaper set up the possibility of offering an article to the user if he was coming from a social network. The goal is to allow journalists to communicate about their work.

I did not find any qualitative information about the results of the Guest Pass operation, but it has since been dropped for a return to a classic and minimalist paywall. This may be an indicator that a strategy that does not fit into a global vision is difficult to maintain over time. It is nevertheless a good example of a pragmatic vision of the datawall as a traffic generator.

Les Échos

If the WSJ example is more of an punctual experiment than a sustainable strategy, Les Echos set up a datawall as an entry point to the subscriber experience.

The message is interesting: the newspaper does not ask the user to subscribe but simply to create an account. This step comes after several free readings. This is the first interaction zone after blocking the content.

Account creation unlocks the possibility to read 8 free articles per month. In the end, the user is blocked with a promotional offer.

A datawall in this context is interesting: in contrast to the strategy of the WSJ, it is seen as a bridge centered on the UX which is complementary to the “metered” model in place. It makes it possible to optimize the conversion of an anonymous user into a registered user thanks to a certain reduction of the friction.

Mind News

Mind’s vision of datawall is effective and in tune with its readership. This B2B online magazine does not seek to engage its user gradually because the information it disseminates is qualified and exclusive.

The paywall is pragmatic. It explains the complete approach to access content while offering a quick account creation.

This is a different way of capturing data through a paywall: no for a marketing test, little to optimize conversion, but especially to be in phase with a readership that needs to be effective.

Datawall and conversion optimization

This logic ultimately increases average revenue per user. Part of the audience who could give their e-mail or create an account via a datawall would not necessarily have gone to the end of a conversion tunnel. Having qualified data reduces acquisition costs, refines commitment and intelligently adjusts advertising pressure.

Datawalls are a brick of the logical evolution of user experience in modern media. They make it possible to reduce the route, the number of clicks, to explain the offer, and to multiply the entry points to gradually engage the least receptive users.

Like any initiative, it must be consistent with a comprehensive strategy to be revenue-generating, and cost-effective.