Although Foreign Affairs has found success monetising online readers, its first paywall iteration was a haphazard effort at best, explained Anique Halliday, senior product manager at Foreign Affairs, during a recent Publishing Executive webinar on paywall strategies. “It was arbitrary, it was ambiguous, and it was confusing to readers,” said Halliday.
Editors decided what articles had a hard or soft paywall, meaning the paywall was implemented inconsistently, enabling readers to circumvent it. Print articles that were published online would automatically have a hard paywall, which Halliday said created a false value proposition, which suggested print articles were worth paying for while digital-first articles were not. The biggest problem with the complex paywall system was that Foreign Affairs was not training its audience to expect to pay for content, said Halliday.
These complications led to a site redesign in 2014 in which the paywall strategy was completely revamped.