Cracking The Paywall

Cracking The Paywall

Cracking the PaywallSo, your website’s live and is racking-up more hits than a Beatles tribute act. Global domination awaits. But how do you convince people to jump aboard and join your fledgling empire?

What converts initial interest into sales, and how are you going to build a brand?

Much can be learned from the masters of membership.


With over 40 million members, Netflix has rapidly become the world’s most popular on-demand video service, reportedly accounting for two-thirds of America’s total Internet traffic. Wow.

Why does it work?

Convenience: Users can stream unlimited videos in return for a fixed monthly sum, beating outdated alternatives offered by the high street. Original Content: Heavy investment in self-produced shows, such as the award-winning ‘House of Cards’, and obtaining exclusive rights to screen Oscar-nominated documentary ‘The Square’, shows a real commitment to innovative output. This resonates with audiences, who like to feel they’re part of something special.

Excellent Service: Netflix has drawn much praise for encouraging employees to ‘be themselves’ when talking to customers, which somewhat bucks the trend for corporate robots. Check out this exchange that went viral.

Adaptability: Initially, their primary income came from DVD rentals but, when the technology was in place, the streaming service really took off. They were ahead of the game and capitalised on the market.

How can you emulate this?

Be confident in what separates you from the competition, and make this your unique selling point.

Attracting and retaining subscribers will be easier if your premium content promises good value, i.e. it’s regularly updated and isn’t available elsewhere. Reaching out to people and building good relations will only enhance your reputation, so take time to resolve any issues and be proactive in making improvements.


Internationally, Spotify boasts 24 million users, six million of whom (25%) are premium members. However, in a recent blog post, the company stated ambitions to increase that figure to a mind-blowing 40 million paying customers.

How does it work?

Time limits on freebie streaming (previously set at 10 hours per month) have now been lifted which should, theoretically, encourage more sign-ups to basic level membership. The idea is to lure people in with free content, and then sell them the added perks of going premium, i.e. ad-free streaming and offline access to your playlists. New users are also invited to sample a ’30 Day Free Trial’ of the premium package.

How can it work for you?

There’s no doubt that giving away some free content is worthwhile – it boosts visits to your site, gets people interested and allows them a glimpse at how awesome you are.

Time-sensitive offers will also encourage more immediate action, so consider promoting free trials or discounted rates for limited periods.

Xbox Live Gold

Microsoft’s gaming network is booming with over 48 million members, which creates a unique user experience.

How does it work?

Billed as ‘your ticket to the most exciting entertainment network in the world’, there is a huge focus on the idea of ‘community’. The ‘SmartMatch’ feature promises to pair you against people of a similar skill, making for competitive multiplayer action, while live events and exclusive games are also promised to subscribers. You can even link your Skype account and chat to friends while playing.    businessman holding trophy of success on a jigsaw piece

How can it work for you?

The key thing to replicate is a sense of community spirit. Your members are likely share similar interests, so allowing them to engage will make for a far more sociable experience, one encourages repeat visits.

Employ interactive message boards, invite guest bloggers and even highlight ‘members of the week’ to strengthen your bonds and inspire others to join. You could also consider live ‘webinars’ or arrange real-life events to support your peer-led community.

Learning from the market leaders will certainly help you run a more successful membership site.

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