The monster in the closet
Every publisher has nightmares about password-sharing. Even with a paywall guarding your digital content, you still worry about the possibility that for every account created, a hundred people are logging in. You worry that you’re losing a thousand potential subscribers to rampant password-sharing.
In truth, password-sharing does happen. Whether it’s multiple family members logging in on different devices or an office sharing a single subscription of a B2B publication, a certain degree of password-sharing is going to happen.
But it doesn’t have to be your worst nightmare.
More a nuisance than a monster
You can draw the line between the people who share their password unthinkingly and the people who are going to sneak around your paywall no matter what you do.
Because while password-sharing is going to happen, the clever publisher can, with very little effort, both lessen its effect and generate some extra revenue.
The problem is widespread but not nearly as damaging as you think.
A lot of the people who share their passwords do it out of convenience. Present them with a paid option shy of purchasing individual subscriptions or incentives not to and they’ll follow along.
(The rest of the paywall-dodgers are going to keep looking for ways to dodge. They were never going to subscribe. So they’re more of an annoyance than an actual catastrophe.)
As for the first group, there are a few ways to bring them to heel. The first step is stop them bypassing the paywall. The second is to encourage them to pay up.
Chasing away the shadows
There are a few different methods to limit or outright block password-sharing and paywall-dodging.
You can use a plugin like Logged – Limit Active Logins to restrict the number of active logins a single user can have at any given time.
You can use the IP Blocker plugin to redirect incognito browsers back to your subscription options.
The problem with these blunt force options is that they can create administrative overhead. When people realize they’ve been stopped from logging in, you receive more customer support complaints.
While IP Blocker is a good choice for anyone, you have to decide if your publication is the right fit for limiting logins.
Do you generate mostly high-value content requiring tight restrictions? (Financial projections, for example, or database access, or long-form educational materials.) It’s probably worth the extra admin costs for you.
If you’re mostly producing a higher volume of similar value content – like a news publication – it may not be worth it. This is particularly true if you have a large subscriber base. The more subscribers, the worse the admin headache of limiting logins.
Once you’ve bulked up security, you offer your reader options and incentives to gain access the right way.
Turning on the light
Options: bulk subscriptions
The first of these methods is to offer an alternative. Offer bulk access: a family, group, or corporate subscription.
Each of these options offer multiple seats in the same subscription: a better deal than purchasing individual subscriptions for each potential user, while still boosting your revenue.
You can promote this option across the reader experience: add it to your subscription nags and your login page, promote it to your logged-in subscribers, offer it at the bottom of your newsletter.
Make sure people know it’s an option, every step of the way.
Incentives: create social pressure
The other best way to stop password-sharing is to give them reasons to safeguard their own account.
Enable and encourage comments on your articles. Readers want to join in and be acknowledged, but they don’t want to held be responsible for anyone’s opinions but their own. An active comments section encourages them to reserve their login for their exclusive use.
Likewise, if it fits your publication, create an interactive community events calendar or allow classified ads publishing as part of their paid subscription. These are benefits they won’t want to share with anyone else.
If you offer them a stake in their own account exclusivity and/or an opportunity to share their subscription ethically, your best readers will take them.
None of these options are difficult to implement.
Other than the potential admin headache for limiting logins, none of them require much maintenance.
But the end result is worth it: a percentage of your readers will buy into the group plans, raising your revenue without costing you anything.
A percentage of your readers will start policing their own passwords.
And you can rest easy, free from the nightmare of lost opportunity.
Want to learn more about turning your password-sharing problems into revenue? Let’s chat.