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What Is Gated Content?

Updated on June 26, 2017
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Heidi Thorne is a self publishing expert, author of 21 (and counting!) business books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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Blogs and websites are always looking for ways to monetize their content. Advertising revenues from systems such as Google AdSense have made sense in the past. But with today's ad blocking technology and site visitors' ad blindness which can reduce click throughs, ad revenues can be reduced or even eliminated. Frustrated by the prospect of offering their content for free, bloggers and website owners may turn to another strategy to get revenue: Gated content.

What Does Gated Content Mean?

Like the physical barrier for which it is named, gated content puts a barrier between visitors and the articles, videos, audio, podcasts, etc. that they want to read, view, or hear on the Internet. Some form of "payment" is required to get access. By doing this, the blogger or site owner can get paid for what they produce.

Pay Gates

The blog or website may provide a teaser sample of the content, or simply an enticing description of it, to encourage people to pay to see or hear more. "Pay" can be in the form of cash, subscription or membership fees, or simply opting in to an email list.

Though one-time viewing for cash payments could usually be done from a technical standpoint, more common is to offer access on a continuing basis, such as with an annual or monthly subscription, to avoid the cost of a high volume of micro payments of a few cents or dollars.

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Email Subscription Gates

Building an email list for a targeted audience could be even more valuable than getting paid in cash for allowing access. By requiring visitors to sign up for an email list to access special content, they've gotten "paid" with visitors' attention and permission. Some sites may also require payment of a cash fee to become a subscriber. Once confirmed as a subscriber, visitors can then access the desired content. Access could be provided via email or through a login procedure.

Some blogs and websites that use this strategy don't offer exclusive content on a continuing basis. Going through their email subscription gate merely provides a special perk, such as an eBook download. Then subscribers receive alerts when new publicly posted content is available. Or they may receive some special discounts and offers.

Premium Content Gates

One of the common ways that gated content strategies are used is to provide premium, exclusive, or special articles, videos, and audio. On these types of sites, there may be a mix of freely available and premium content. But to get to the premium material, visitors will have to subscribe or pay.

Some offline newspapers and magazines (e.g., The New York Times), now offer paid gated digital editions of their print version predecessors. Success of these transitions can be mixed because website visitors can always find alternative information sources on the Internet.

Costs of Gated Content

In addition to the normal costs of self hosting a blog, gated content requires additional investment in email list building and payment systems. Opt-in email list platforms, such as AWeber and MailChimp, may offer payment integration to facilitate both functions. These additional integrations may have a cost to use and there may be per transaction fees for payment processing.

The necessity to build an email list and/or provide login access also requires protection of visitors' personal information. Additional security services, plugins and programs, and development of privacy policies with the help of an attorney, are the minimum security investments that gated content demands.

The cost of both email list building and security could easily outweigh any revenues gained from offering gated content. So careful analysis of costs and profitability is required when setting prices and determining if it is a wise strategy at all.

What If Nobody Pays?

As seen with the transition of traditional print publications to digital gated versions, there is always the possibility that people will not be willing to pay for access. The Internet can provide an almost limitless stream of relevant and high quality content from a vast host of sources for free. So why pay?

This is the most significant risk in pursuing a gated content strategy. Large media company websites may be able to absorb the losses that could result since they may have many other income sources. But small bloggers often cannot sustain the costs and potentially low revenues from using this strategy. Small sites may have small traffic, too, with only a small percentage of total site visitors converting into paying customers for content only. So for smaller blog sites, email subscription gates are very common, as opposed to more elaborate and expensive paid content programs.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Suhail! You're not alone. :) I do the same thing. In fact, when I bump up against a "pay wall" I decide whether that content is worth the cost. Often, I just click away. Hope all is good with you. Thanks for chiming in and have a lovely day!

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      Suhail and my dog K2 3 months ago

      Heidi,

      Thanks for this informative piece. Although I knew that some sites asked for some kind of payment, I didn't know the jargon.

      Admittedly, I have subscribed to couple of sites for email service that also offers web hosting and for putting watermark on my photographs, but I have never signed up for any gated content site. The reason is detailed under the last section of your article.

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi GalaxyRat! You're not alone. :) That's why it's such a risky blogging strategy, especially for small bloggers. Thanks for chiming in and have a great day!

    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 4 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Thanks for the info! I never sign up for stuff that I need to pay for...

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Flourish, I think a lot of people do what you did with the Consumer Reports. They'll subscribe on an as-needed basis, but won't hang around after the need is gone. That's a tough situation for bloggers and site owners. But it's the reality. And I'm guessing you have a lot of company in not liking gated content. What really peeves me is when a site posts a link to the article on social media and the landing page says you have to pay to read it. Don't share it on social media! People will bounce out. Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation! Hope you're having a great day!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi again, Larry! Glad you found the information useful. Cheers!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Jodah! Thanks for stopping by and add your comments to the conversation. True, sometimes the subscription fee is worth it. Have a great day!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Heidi, I had never heard the term "gated content", but I was aware of newspapers and the like requiring a paid subscription for access to their content. I too wondered why anyone would pay when the information is available elsewhere but it may be convenient for some and the subscription price is usually low and includes some extras to entice. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very informative.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      The only paid content I can recall signing up for (VERY reluctantly) recently was a one-month subscription to Consumer Reports so I could get the data I needed. We just bought a car and rely on them for pricing and other key information. I don't like gated content.