Access to information has never been easier. Within seconds, search engines can present us with thousands of websites which all fit our request, most of which are free to access for the consumer. However, this content is certainly not free to produce.
Given this, paired with the ever falling print and advertising revenue potential, publishers are looking to diversify their revenue streams and take back the control over access to their content. This is where walls (also known as gates and content blocks) come in handy as a tool that will establish a value exchange with users, asking for something in return for content.
A registration wall, the lesser known but incredibly valuable wall-type, is no different, providing the solution to a wide range of challenges faced by digital publishers today.
But what are registration walls? What do they look like? How can they be used to benefit a publisher and the reader? And how can you install a registration wall into your site?
- What is a Registration Wall?
Just like all walls, a registration wall creates a value exchange between a content producer and their audience. A paywall, for example, asks a user to pay for subscription in exchange for access to content.
A registration wall, however, requires users to create a free account in order to access content.
Also known as a regwall or regiwall, it turns unknown visitors into logged-in users whose experience can be personalized and behavior analyzed across devices (desktop and mobile). There are therefore a huge number of benefits from employing a registration strategy, both for the content producer and their audience, such as providing a valuable solution to the challenge of the cookieless future.
Registration walls can have two alternative goals from the publisher’s point of view:
- It could be used as a stage within the subscription funnel. In this strategy, the registration wall acts as a soft conversion, turning the anonymous visitor into a lead, gradually increasing their engagement and leading them towards the hard conversion of subscription. This has been proven to significantly boost the chances of the user converting - in fact, registered users are up to 200% more likely to convert to a subscriber than unknown visitors
- Alternatively, a registration wall can be the end goal in itself and visitors will be able to continue to use the site for free once signed up. This is commonly used for TV replay websites where users have to register to view content but are never asked for payment. In this approach, the registration wall provides value to the user in the form of a more personalized experience, whilst simultaneously allowing publishers to collect data, target advertising, better sell other products/services and more
Both have their advantages, which we’ll look at in more detail below, but choosing one over the other depends on your business goals, content and audience.
Note that registration walls are not just for publishers but for any content-producer, including video & audio streaming websites, e-learning platforms, brands and social media sites.
Duolingo, a language learning website and app, requires visitors to register before accessing content. A user has the choice between accessing lessons for free or paying for Duolingo’s premium version which has various benefits (including an ad-free experience and access to premium content).
2. What does a Registration Wall look like?
A registration wall could appear as a publisher's landing page asking for account creation before accessing any content (like Pinterest) or be placed halfway through an article (like the NYT), allowing a reader to see the value proposition before being cut off by the wall.
It usually consists of a form to fill in, often just asking for name and email address, although publishers sometimes require more information. Most websites will also now give users the option to register using an existing social media account (e.g. Facebook, Apple or Google) making the process a lot simpler and allowing for data sharing.
However, as with anything, registration walls can differ hugely across content creator sites and there is no one-size-fits-all. Each publisher should choose their regwall based on their own strategies and goals, carefully considering which wall will be most beneficial to them and their users.
For more examples of content producers employing registration walls, take a look at our article series - 'From content to registration'.
Just like any wall, there are 4 main registration wall models: freemium, metered, hard and dynamic.
Freemium models allow readers to access content with or without registering, giving them complete freedom to decide.
In 2020, The Guardian, a British publisher who is a famous advocate for free journalism, trialled a freemium registration wall to some of its readers. The message gives users the option to either register for free, sign-in or simply click ‘not now’ and continue reading, highlighting that their goal is not monetization (i.e. their registration wall isn’t the first step to subscription) but more that they want to build better relationships with their readers.
Differently, a metered model requires registration past a certain point, such as after reading 4 articles, after scrolling to a certain point on a page or time limited (e.g. days since last visit). This is the strategy employed by Harvard Business Review who informs users of how many articles they have left via a banner at the bottom of the screen. We're able to access 4 articles without an account, then 2 more once we register before being faced with a paywall.
Alternatively, a publisher could employ a hard wall where registration is obligatory to access any content. This is often chosen by TV replay sites that offer their content for free but use the registration wall to track a user’s watching habits and provide them with a personalized experience. The British Channel 4, All4.com, employs this type of wall, offering users a free account (‘My4’) with access to their viewing history, recommended shows, and the ability to add programmes to their ‘to-watch list’.
Finally, publishers could employ a dynamic registration wall which segments an audience based on criteria chosen by the publisher, giving each type of reader a different journey. For example, audiences could be segmented based on frequency of visits (fans vs regulars vs volatiles) or based on where they came from (Google vs Facebook).
A huge benefit of this dynamic approach is that it presents users with the most optimal wall journey for their profile. For example, more volatile visitors can be presented with a variety of soft conversion steps, gradually increasing their engagement with your content and leading them to a hard conversion (such as a hard regwall or paywall). For fans and regular users, you can present them with a more direct and hard wall as these readers are far more likely to convert.
This is what Poool's solution, Poool Access, allows you to do! Segment your audiences and build user journeys for each, adapting your strategy based on the user's profile or context. With the Poool Dashboard for your marketing teams, you can integrate registration walls, newsletter walls, surveys, paywalls and more into user journeys as well as configure every aspect of these walls, from the colors, copy, design and form fields.
Interested in a registration wall for your site? Book a free demo and meeting with our team now to see how Poool's solution can help you achieve your goals!
3. What’s the difference between a Paywall and a Registration Wall?
The word ‘wall’ in the online, content-producing context is used to refer to controlling access to content and asking for some form of value exchange. Both a paywall and registration wall achieve this, but the main difference is that a register wall doesn’t require a payment from the user, whereas a paywall does.
A paywall blocks access to content, requiring a reader to pay to subscribe before they can pass.
The Financial Times is well known for employing a hard paywall, requiring subscription to access all content. Find out more about the FT paywall here.
A registration wall also blocks access to content, but a reader will simply have to create a free account on the website before they can get past. The main 'value' that is being exchanged here is first-party data. Instead of paying for access, a user creates an account for free, meaning information about their profile, behavior, content preferences, etc. can be collected by the publisher.
Both types of wall have their advantages, for the content-producer and the reader, but they can be employed in different ways depending on the goals of the publisher. Notably, they could be used simultaneously, with registration being a soft conversion step to bring them closer to subscription. The creation of an account allows for more information to be gathered about the reader which can lead to insights, a more personalized user experience, increased loyalty, engagement and ultimately higher conversion rates.
With Poool you can integrate any type of wall into your user journeys, meaning that our solution is entirely flexible and adaptable to fit into any strategy. Whether you're seeking to increase engagement, conversion rates of users into account holders or subscribers, or simply collect first-party data, our solution will help you achieve your business goals.
4. Why use a Registration Wall?
There is huge value in using a registration wall, not just for the publisher but also for its users.
What are the benefits of a registration wall for publishers?
- Gather 1st party data: By requiring a reader to register before accessing content, their behavior can be tracked and analyzed, providing you with valuable and actionable insights to inform decision making across your business. What's more, there's external pressure to start collecting owned data due to Google and Apple's announcement of the cookieless future. A regwall, however, provides a simple solution to turn this challenge into a valuable, monetizing opportunity. For more information on employing a first-party data strategy with a regwall, take a look at our white paper dedicated to the topic
- A registered user is one step closer to a paid subscriber: This may not be the goal of all publishers, but for those with a subscription strategy, a registration wall and other soft conversion steps can prove hugely valuable. By asking for account creation prior to presenting users with a paywall, you build a relationship with them, increasing engagement and frequency of visits making it highly more likely that they'll convert to a subscriber in the future. It also means that you can understand their interests, wants and desires as an individual user so that you can offer them value that's the most adapted and enticing to them
- Solve any issues with users bypassing paywalls: As many of us know, there are ways of getting past some publisher’s paywalls using incognito settings or ad-blockers. However, requiring a free log-in for anyone entering your site means that users can be more easily tracked, making bypassing a paywall harder. For example, a publisher could limit content per account rather than per browser or device
- Create more personalized experiences: Knowing what a logged-in user consumes means you can make relevant suggestions, allow them to save content for later, setup notifications for content releases or personalize their account themselves. This may appear to be a benefit for the reader but in creating a better user experience, you will gain more loyal audiences and boost engagement
- Drive revenue in other forms: Registration can drive email newsletter growth, followers on social media and promote premium and paid offers. Ad revenues can also increase as, thanks to your collection of first party data, you can sell targeted advertising spots at an increased rate, showing ads to audiences who fit the right market. As a bonus, this will also improve your user's experience as ad’s will be more relevant to their needs and interests
What are the benefits of a registration wall for users?
- Added benefits of registration: Most publishers (who understand value exchange) will give registered users a perk in signing up. For example, personalized notifications for content releases, access to a more articles per month or maybe an ad-free experience
- Personalization: As mentioned above, it’s always useful for a website to seem to ‘know’ you and provide you with content that matches your interests. Think of Netflix – it would take hours to search through all of the films and programs offered, but, luckily, they employ AI technology that learns from our viewing habits to present custom (and constantly updated) recommendations
- Across devices: Whether a user is on their desktop or mobile, at home or borrowing a friend’s laptop, they can simply sign-in and access their personal account. Additionally, on many websites, you can register using an existing social (e.g. Facebook), Apple or Google account, making it even easier to create an account.
My4 lets you go back to shows that you’ve been watching, add programmes to your list and see what you’ve watched in the past. Learn more about their wall in this article: 7 Examples of Registration Walls
5. How can I launch a Registration Wall?
It’s one thing to understand what a register wall is, but another thing to integrate one into your strategy. Don’t fret though, we’ve got you covered.
The first and arguably most important question here is, what’s your goal?
- Do you aim to employ a register wall as a step towards subscription?
o In this instance, you should think about the whole conversion tunnel. The regwall will act as only one step within your paywall journey, an initial barrier for a user to pass through to bring them closer to paying for your content. Consider how registration will help your overall goal of subscription - for example, it could help to increase engagement if you encourage newly registered users to sign up to newsletters, receive notifications, save content for later, etc.
o You should also consider what type of regwall and paywall you’d like to employ (freemium, medium, hard or dynamic). If you’re uncertain about what different paywalls exist and how they can be integrated into your strategy, take a look at this article on paywalls as well as this one giving 10 key insights in how to convert readers into subscribers.
- Alternatively, do you plan on using the registration wall alone without ever asking a user to pay?
o Here, the goal is more about collecting 1st party data, building relationships with your users and perhaps monetizing from other areas (such as more targeted advertising).
o You should think about which type of registration wall you’d like to employ (freemium, metered, hard or dynamic) based on your goals and strategy.
Next, you can consider the technicalities of your registration wall:
- When will it be presented to visitors? E.g. on their first visit, after accessing a certain amount of content or based on a custom segmentation as defined in a dynamic model. Remember to find a balance between engagement and frustration - you want to keep visitors on your site, but also pressure them into registering. For example, Instagram allows a non-registered visitor to scroll through a handful of photos before asking them to sign-up or sign-in.
- How will it present itself? E.g. midway through an article, as a pop-up message or, in a hard regwall model, before the reader can access any content.
- What will you ask from the visitor? E.g. just require their email address, social or Google login, or maybe ask other questions to better understand their consumer habits. How will this be phrased? As this article shows, wording on a wall matters!
- How will you give your users a value exchange? How will they benefit as a registered user? E.g. personalized content recommendations, alerts when relevant content is released or perhaps their own account page to save content for later.
TF1, a French TV channel, shows a visitor the benefits of registering, with the option of using their Facebook or Apple account to speed up the sign-up process.
- What will the rest of the user experience look like? It's obviously important to think about user experience, design, etc for the regwall itself, but don’t forget to think about the rest - What will the signed-in user see? How will they access their account? Take a look at this article to see how a wall is only the tip of the iceberg.
6. What are the best practices for using a Registration Wall?
With all the information provided so far, we hope you’ll feel confident in integrating a registration wall into your site. Before you do though, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you to get the most out of this strategy.
- Reduce friction in the registration process: We all know that the longer something takes and the more effort needed to complete something, the less likely we are to do it. If you make the registration process long and exhaustive, a user could simply choose to leave your site and find what they need elsewhere. To make it simpler for them, consider offering registration with an account that they might have on a different platform, such as Google or Facebook. We’d also only recommend asking users for the bare minimum. Name and email address are perhaps the key requirements and take very little time to fill out.
- Make it obvious that it’s free to register: Unlike a paywall, this wall is free for your audience to pass through, so make sure they know it! This is important as you can benefit from registered users without them paying anything.
- Promote benefits for the user: Although it’s free to subscribe, the reader needs more than this. Make sure that the effort needed to register, rather than choosing to use another site, gives something back to the reader - a value exchange. This can take many forms, including personalized recommendations, ability to save content for later and alerts for new content. As an example, The Guardian, in keeping with their ‘charity’ style, highlights to readers that registering can help them to continue to provide free journalism without a user having to pay for subscription.
Read more about The Guardian's regwall in our '7 Examples of Registration Walls' article.
Above all, we'd recommend taking a look at our two-part white paper on employing a first-party data strategy with a registration wall. With cookie usage coming to an end, prioritizing this kind of strategy has never been more important and a regwall can provide the solution to not only overcome this challenge but turn it into an opportunity.