Paywalls are an often-used way to monetize content. The Globe & Mail’s is built so that it automatically knows when to use it, and when not to.

We’ve all seen this method of driving revenue through content: putting a paywall in front of your content so that you need to subscribe to read an article or view a video for example.

What is a paywall?

A paywall is a tactic that blocks either a part or the entirety of a content piece (it can be a video, an article, an infographic, etc.) and asks for the visitor to subscribe or provide data (most often through a paid subscription) in order to be able to read, view or listen to the content.

What a lot of media and publishers have been doing successfully for the past decade is to allow a visitor to access a given number of content pieces before showing the paywall. This way people can get a grasp of how the publisher or media treats content, the value the visitor can get from it, before asking them to open they wallet. The New York Times is known to have very successfully used this method to drive their digital subscriptions to levels unseen from other publishers.

A new and very interesting approach derived from this last example is from The Globe & Mail here in Canada. They integrated artificial intelligence into their paywall. What does this AI, called “Sophi” do?

It analyzes patterns visitors take throughout the site and evaluates the chances they would subscribe to The Globe & Mail. If the score is too low, Sophi will simply not show the paywall and allow the visitor to still have a great experience with the publisher, without bothering them with an offer they would not take.

For example as Sonali Verma, senior project manager at the publisher, puts it:

“A reader who reads mostly general news and recipes might be less likely to subscribe than one reading a lot of business-related content. Still, Sophi might present this general news reader with a paywall. If they don’t reach for their wallet, the model wouldn’t hit them with the same message again and again. Instead, Sophi might pivot, and try asking the reader to register with an email instead.”

This is an excellent example of something we work on at Toast: the content experience.

Any brand, broadcaster and publisher has key business objectives. But these objectives must not come in the way of a great content experience. It is successful content experiences that can drive revenue, sales and overall business success. They come together.

I invite you to read more on The Globe & Mail’s AI paywall in an article published over at The Nieman Lab by Sarah Scire.

And after reading the article, why not ask yourself: what kind of content experience are we building for our audiences? How can we improve it? Oh and by the way, our experts at Toast can help!