A paywall restricts a user from accessing web content and to bypass it, it charges a fee or asks for a subscription. There are many types of paywall ranging in the severity of locking content, such as soft and hard paywall models. A soft paywall is a type of paywall that allows limited access to web content that can include a set number of articles per month or offer some paragraphs of an article before restricting access. A hard paywall restricts the accessibility of the information completely and requires a payment to unlock the content.
Search engines like Google do not discriminate search results based on their accessibility, they display results based on popularity. Most of the time the web content a user wants to access turns out to be locked or has only partial accessibility, which in turn can be frustrating for the visitor.
That is where the solution of paywall labels comes into the picture. Paywall labels will allow users to know beforehand the free and paid content in their search results. It acts as a filter for the returned search results to ensure greater visibility in finding what the user wants without any restrictions. However, paywall labels have divided people, with people in agreement and disagreement, and both sides have valid arguments for and against.
Following are some of the different views in regards to the use of paywall labels:
A Better User Experience
People who are in favor of paywall labels argue that it will improve the user experience. Indeed, in a recently conducted survey, 67% of users preferred the idea of a label. As mentioned already, when it comes to searching information, users have frustrating experiences as most of the websites that offer this information have either totally locked up their content behind a paywall or offer only limited access to it. Therefore, the advocates of paywall labels think such an action will improve the user experience and reduce friction in accessing information.
It Will Negatively Affect Websites
Some have seen the negative side of paywall labels affecting websites, with a decrease in their traffic. This comes about as users can potentially overlook or skip content that is locked behind a paywall without giving websites the chance to impress the visitor. A decrease in traffic will affect their decrease of visibility, which in turn will affect revenue generation. It will also erode the quality of journalism because sustaining quality content requires financial backing and labeling paywalls beforehand will take away the advertising money generated on the website because of impressions.
A Matter of Choice
Another point of view regarding paywall labels is that of having a choice. The choice of buying a subscription or switching to a different source on the part of a user exists, but users feel Google already displays prices of various goods beforehand in its search results; therefore, they can display paywall labels on paid content similar to that of goods on shopping sites.
Not All Content is Locked Behind a PaywallThere are extensions available on chrome that can label paywalls, but not every piece of content on a premium website comes with the need for payment. There is a soft paywall design (a very common type) that offers a certain number of free articles per month, and labeling a premium website with a paywall label will make such websites entirely paid.