What is a Pay Wall?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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Also known as a paywall, a pay wall is a type of Internet tool that blocks immediate access to the front page of a web site. Typically, the pay wall includes instructions for either logging into an account associated with the site, or paying a fee to gain access to the front webpage and the other pages found at the site. A number of online periodicals use this approach to encourage readers to subscribe to the site, allowing the site owner to generate some direct income from the pages on the web site.

In order to get around the pay wall, users must usually tender some sort of screen requirement payment. Many sites allow users to pay a small fee for access to the site for a limited amount of time, such as twenty-four hours. Payment information is included on the pay wall, making it easy to enter credit or debit card data and gain the temporary access. Other sites use the pay wall as a means of encouraging users to take out a subscription to the site, sometimes offering several different duration options ranging from monthly to annually. With the subscriptions, the user is often encouraged to establish a user name and unique password that can be used to access the site once the subscription payment has been tendered.


The use of a pay wall sometimes includes a marketing strategy that allows users to have a quick look at the site before tendering any type of fee. Sometimes known as a first click free approach, this is not uncommon with online magazines and newspapers. The reader is allowed to view the front page of the site and select one article to read. Should the reader select a second article, the pay wall returns and provides the reader with the several different options available in terms of paying the fee for one-day use or going with a subscription plan.

A number of different types of web sites make use of a pay wall. This is particularly true of web sites that cater to niche markets within the consumer market, including web sites with adult themes. With adult sites, simply entering payment information is usually not enough to gain full access to the site. Instead, some type of age verification is employed as part of the sign-up or subscription process, a strategy that allows the site to operate in compliance with governmental regulations that prohibit providing services of this type to individuals under what is considered a legal age in that nation.


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