Access to information has never been easier. Within seconds, search engines can present us with thousands of websites which all fit our request. Given this, not only do content-producers want to start monetizing from their work online, and quite rightly so, but they want more control over access to it. Walls, in their many forms, are becoming increasingly utilized to achieve this and a registration wall is no exception. But what are registration walls? What do they look like? How can they be used to benefit a publisher and the reader?
- What is a Registration Wall?
Register walls require a visitor to create a free account in order to access content. Notably, unlike a paywall, a reader doesn’t need to pay to pass this wall but simply register as a user on the media’s website.
Also known as a regwall or regiwall, it helps turn unknown readers into logged-in users whose behaviour can be analyzed across devices (desktop and mobile) in order to collect valuable first-party data.
A publisher can configure a registerwall to do a variety of things, depending on their goals. This includes collecting email addresses, tracking user behavior across devices and increasing conversion rates of readers into subscribers. Most importantly, the wall allows for collecting 1st party data, a key tool that can be beneficial in all areas of your business.
Regwalls can have two different goals from the publisher’s point of view:
- It could be used as a stage within the subscription funnel, encouraging a reader to pay to subscribe after they become a registered user. In this option, the registerwall comes before a paywall which requires a user to pay to access content. In fact, registered users are up to 200% more likely to convert to a subscriber than anonymous readers! The NYT takes this approach, utilizing a regwall allowing a reader to view a certain number of articles per month but requiring subscription for access to more than this set limit. Find out more about the NYT wall strategy here.
- Alternatively, the register 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 visitors have to register to view content but are never asked for payment. In this approach, the regwall is likely playing a role in a first-party data strategy as it allows publishers to get value (in the form of user's data) from those who access their content.
Both have their advantages for the publisher and the user, which we’ll look at in more detail below.
Note that registration walls are not just for publishers but for any content-producer, including broadcasters, 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 ad-free and premium content).
2. What does a Registration Wall look like?
A regwall could appear as a simple pop-up message asking for registration or be placed halfway through an article, allowing a reader to see the value proposition before being cut off by the wall. It will consist of a form to fill in, often just asking for name and email address, although publishers sometimes require more information. Most websites will now allow users to register using a social media, Apple or Google account, making the process a lot simpler.
On Boursier’s website (a French journal specializing in economic news), readers are given access to 4 articles before being asked to register. After signing up, they will still be able to view content for free, but Boursier will now be able to track every visit to their site, whether this be on mobile or desktop.
As with anything, registration walls can differ hugely across different 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. There are 4 main models of registration wall that could be employed: 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.
A metered model, such as Boursier’s, 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). For a case study of Boursier’s wall, have a read of this article.
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’.
A final approach is the 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 type of wall is that it allows for A/B testing before fully integrating the registration wall into a website, significantly reducing any risks that might exist. For more information on dynamic walls, take a look at our dynamic wall product, ‘Poool Access’. Thanks to the publisher’s dashboard, you can utilize our solution to design a registration form for your website, segment your audience and create different journeys for each user segment.
Interested in a registration wall for your site? Book a free demo now!
Interested in seeing more examples? Check out our other regwall article '7 Examples of Registration Walls' which looks at the successful examples of Instagram, Busuu, Journal du Net and more, as well as our article series: 'From Content, to Registration to Content'.
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 a value exchange of some form. 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 register 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 requirement as a step 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 and ultimately higher conversion rates.
If you’re interested in paywalls, we’ve published an article explaining what they are, what types of paywalls exist and how you can use one to benefit your business. What’s more, Poool’s paywall includes an integrated registration wall option, allowing you to either utilize a regwall as part of a paywall journey towards subscription or employ it alone. We have a free demo or find out more about our product, Poool Access, by clicking here!
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. It's important to note that a regwall could be used as a pre-launch to a subscription model, a less risky approach to entering the walled-content world. This can prove extremely useful to publishers as a way to test the waters in finding out whether your audience is ready to pay for your content as well as learn about their habits to optimize your site.
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, providing you with valuable and actionable insights. Collecting first party data is the base to launching any business model. Understanding your readers will allow you to create a better user experience, optimize strategies across your business and so much more. This regwall benefit is hugely important in the current post-cookie world. For more information on employing a first-party data strategy with a regwall, take a look at our white paper dedicated to the topic.
- 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 or even 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 improve content engagement.
- A registered user is one step closer to a paid subscriber: This may not be the goal of all publishers, but monetization from content is very important. A logged-in user cuts out a step in the subscription process, meaning that friction is reduced when you ask for subscription (they would just need to choose their offer and pay). What’s more, building a relationship with a user before asking for subscription leads to better conversion rates and enables you to identify and target (in the most optimal way) your most loyal readers.
- 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 advertising spots at an increased rate, showing ads to audiences who fit the right target market. As a bonus, this will also suit your user more as ad’s will be more relevant to their needs and interests.
The NYT registration wall on mobile devices vs desktop, both very simple and require little information from the reader. Find out more about the NYT wall strategy here.
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 higher number of 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. Think of Netflix – it would take hours to search through all of the films and programmes offered, but, luckily, they designed each user’s homepage to give recommendations and present them with the content most suited to their watching-habits. They even provide a match percentage so you can find the best fit for you.
- 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, likely an initial barrier for a user to pass through which will bring them closer to paying for your content.
o You should consider what type of regwall and paywall you’d like to employ. 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 should 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 register 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 a registration wall.
- 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 losing 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.