Decoding the Effectiveness of Newspack’s Paywall: An In-depth Review

What is Newspack?

Newspack has emerged as a comprehensive solution for news publishers, seamlessly integrating with WordPress. It’s more than just a plugin or a theme; it’s an all-encompassing platform that combines hosting, great news designs (themes), ad management, donations, and management of publisher-specific functions. This platform simplifies the technical aspects of running a news site, allowing publishers to focus on content rather than technology management. It is dubbed as the one-stop solution for managing your website.

Pricing accommodates newsrooms of different sizes, starting at $750/month. Subscribers also gain access to ongoing research in journalism and revenue development, exclusive benchmarking data, direct contact with the Newspack development team, and membership in a growing community of digital publishers.

The inception of Newspack was driven by a deep dive into the challenges faced by newsrooms in the digital age. Recognizing the hesitancy among publishers to update or change their websites for fear of technical issues, Newspack aims to eliminate these barriers. By offering a robust, ready-to-use platform, it allows journalists to dedicate more energy to producing quality content without the need for extensive technical expertise or external developers.

Is Newspack any good?

The short answer is yes, for donation focused news publishers.

Drawing from The Code Company’s insights into utilizing Newspack for news media, it’s clear that the primary appeal lies in the elimination of complex setup processes, with pre-selected plugins and configurations tailored to the needs of online newsrooms. This aspect is particularly beneficial for smaller publishers, offering an affordable and straightforward solution.

As a newish entrant in the market, Newspack’s applications are still iterating, which might not align with the needs of publishers aiming for a highly refined minimum viable product (MVP), especially when it comes to a flexible subscription platform.

Currently, Newspack stands out as an efficient content management system (CMS) for digital publishers eager to launch their sites promptly. Its flexibility for extension and customization is a key advantage. Crucially, unlike certain Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, Newspack allows publishers to maintain full control over their audience and data. Yet, for those seeking to implement highly tailored or unique subscription and digital product experiences, Newspack needs a more capable paywall solution.

The Newspack theme is pretty great though.

In our experience working with news publishers, we find they are quite happy with the look and feel of their website. That is attributed to the well built Newspack theme. You can actually download the Newspack tools (including the theme) and set them up yourself, likely with the help of your WordPress developer. You can learn more about how to set up Newspack yourself here.

What are my paywall options with Newspack?

Newspack focus = donations

When considering paywall options with Newspack, your primary tool is WooCommerce Subscriptions. This integrates seamlessly into the Newspack platform, offering a straightforward, hard paywall solution. It’s designed to manage subscriber access effectively, ensuring that only those who have subscribed can access your premium content.

However, it’s important to understand the (substantial) limitations of this approach, particularly when it comes to engaging with casual website visitors. A hard paywall can act as a barrier to new or occasional readers who might not be ready to commit to a subscription. This setup poses a challenge in nurturing these visitors and encouraging them to become subscribers.

In essence, while WooCommerce Subscriptions provides a basic mechanism for managing subscriptions and restricting content access, its effectiveness in upselling and converting casual visitors into paying subscribers is limited. Developing strategies to engage these users outside of the hard paywall, such as through compelling newsletter sign-ups or offering a mix of free and premium content, can be essential in building a broader audience base and increasing subscription revenue over time.

Let’s talk paid subscriptions

Peter Ericson

Want to learn more about growing your audience and converting subscribers with your paywall? Get in touch with Pete.

Let’s talk

Should I use a different paywall solution with Newspack?

If you focus on donations then no, you have everything you need

If you need fine-tuned restriction controls and subscription options for a great audience experience, yes you need a different paywall solution. This approach is especially relevant if you’re interested in strategies like registration walls, targeted upsells, group and corporate access, premium+ offers, subscriber-only newsletters, ad-free plans and other important revenue generators.

The traditional hard paywall method isn’t as widely used today because it tends to deter casual visitors rather than engaging them. A paywall that dynamically adjusts its offers to your readers can be far more effective in gradually nurturing their interest. By allowing access to some content or services in exchange for registration, you create an initial touchpoint. From there, you can gather data on their interests and behaviors, which can be leveraged to craft personalized offers that encourage them to move from free to paid subscriptions.

This approach not only helps in increasing the number of paying subscribers but also enhances the overall reader experience by making it feel more tailored and less restrictive. Implementing a more flexible and dynamic paywall solution with Newspack can lead to better engagement, higher conversion rates, and, ultimately, increased subscription revenue.

What paywall features do you need as news publisher?

At a minimum you need features to nurture your casual readers into paid subscribers

In today’s digital age, news publishers are constantly exploring innovative ways to grow their audience and enhance subscription revenue. A critical aspect of this endeavor is implementing a paywall strategy that not only secures revenue but also enriches the reader experience. It’s crucial for publishers to have a paywall system that is versatile and attuned to the diverse needs of their audience.

From cultivating a journey for your readers from free content to paid subscriptions, to integrating sophisticated tools for audience engagement and subscription management, the right features can significantly impact your revenue. Here are the essential paywall features that every news publisher needs to consider for a thriving digital news platform:

As a news publisher, here are many of the paywall features you need:

  • Creating a nurturing experience from free registration to paid subscriptions
  • Being able to lean into the free registration to grow your email list
  • Being able to target casual visitors, free registered readers, and paid subscribers or donors with appropriate messages to be able to upsell them
  • Offering group and corporate subscriptions
  • Being able to offer family plans
  • Being able to offer an ad-free experience
  • Being able to block incognito browsing
  • Being able to stop bogus email registrations
  • Being able to integrate with circulation software and CRMs
  • Being able to upsell premium+ subscriptions or memberships
  • Being able to offer iOS and Android apps
  • Being able to easily manage subscriber-only newsletters
  • Being able to offer multiple website access with one subscription payment
  • Being able to understand which articles are actually converting subscribers

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of essential paywall features, let’s delve into the specific solutions that cater to the unique needs of news publishers. While WordPress boasts an array of membership plugins suitable for a broad spectrum of publishers, these options often fall short in meeting the specialized requirements of news organizations aiming for sustained revenue growth. Learn more: what the difference is between a paywall platform and membership software.

A word on native WordPress vs. a SaaS drop in paywall solution

Choosing a Software as a Service (SaaS) paywall approach, as opposed to a native WordPress solution, can bring about certain challenges, especially concerning user experience and site personalization. SaaS, a cloud-based service model, allows you to access software over the internet, but when it comes to paywalls, this external hosting can limit how much you can customize your website. Additionally, SaaS paywalls often complicate the login experience for readers because they require authentication from a third-party database, leading to a higher incidence of login issues and increased support demands.

SaaS platforms also can handle payments differently and is critical to understand how and where your recurring payments happen (and how much control you have to your data). Learn more about SaaS vs native WordPress here.

Our recommendation for news publishers is to seek out a native WordPress solution that aligns with the objectives and challenges unique to the news industry. A native WordPress solution can leverage the necessary features that WordPress offers, being able to restrict and offer access based on article categories/tags, post types, subscription levels and customization via hooks and filters.

Leaky Paywall is our choice. It offers the customization and targeted features necessary to effectively nurture audience engagement, create targeted offers at the right time, and has unique features to grow news publisher’s audience and revenue.

Let’s look at today’s subscription platform options:

1. Leaky Paywall

  • Paywall type: Dynamic 
  • Software type: WordPress native
  • Print circulation: Yes
  • Features: Deep WordPress integration, high level of customization, many publisher specific integrations, reader targeting options, A/B testing, pay-per-article, iOS & Android apps
  • Pricing: Starts at $199/mo
  • Best fit: News and magazine publishers using WordPress

Leaky Paywall’s focus is on engaging publisher audiences and serving up a seamless subscription experience to grow revenue. It offers many ways to monetize content.

Leaky Paywall is built natively for WordPress so all subscriber data lives on-site and uses the publisher’s payment gateway of choice. It integrates with many CRMs, circulation software, and many other CRMs and other WordPress plugins.

Highly customizable, but a WordPress developer is recommended to unlock its potential.

Want to learn more? Get in touch

Let’s talk paywalls for your news publication

Peter Ericson

Want to learn more about growing your audience and subscriptions with your paywall? Get in touch with Pete.

2. ZUORA/Zephyr

  • Paywall type: Dynamic
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Print circulation: Yes
  • Features: Intelligent paywall, identity and access management, corporate subscriptions, multi-site access
  • Pricing: Custom
  • Best fit: Enterprise-level publication

Zuora offers a suite of monetization solutions designed to support businesses with subscription-based, consumption-based, or hybrid models. Their services cover pricing, billing, payments, and revenue accounting, aiming to help companies build, run, and grow by fostering recurring relationships and revenue. Zuora caters to a variety of industries and boasts integrations with many CRMs and other software, emphasizing scalability, customer engagement, and streamlined operations for order-to-revenue processes.

3. Pelcro

  • Paywall type: Dynamic
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Circulation software integration: No
  • Features: A/B campaigns & testing
  • Pricing: Starts at $499+/month
  • Best fit: Generalized membership and e-commerce businesses, publishers looking for a quick start with basic customizations

Pelcro is an all-in-one subscription and membership management solution tailored for businesses that offer digital memberships, subscriptions, magazines, newspapers, and more. It aims to provide everything needed to run a membership and subscription business. Pelcro features APIs and SDKs for web and mobile, offering a comprehensive, self-serve platform with no code required but all the development tools for customization​​.

4. Pigeon Paywall

Pidgeon Paywall
  • Paywall type: Metered
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Print circulation: Yes
  • Features: Print management, incognito browser blocking, pay-per-view
  • Pricing: $1500+ set-up fee + $99+ monthly cost +10%  transaction fees
  • Best fit: Newspaper publishers looking for a simple paywall with print management

Pigeon Paywall offers paid content access across various subscription models. It allows for easy setup and management of subscriptions, supporting multiple payment gateways for secure transactions. Pigeon features a straightforward subscriber management interface and flexible pricing, with no long-term contracts, catering to publishers’ needs for control and adaptability

They manage your data, take transaction fees, and apply additional fees for print publications and high volume sites. 

5. Piano

Piano subscriptions
  • Paywall type: Dynamic
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Print circulation: Yes
  • Features: API integrations, A/B testing, additional revenue opportunities, in-depth reporting and analytical tools
  • Pricing: Custom
  • Best fit: Enterprise-level publication or membership business works with some the world’s largest publishing brands. It is a comprehensive digital experience platform, focusing on enhancing subscription, conversion, analytics, entitlement, and personalization goals. It lets teams understand and influence customer behavior with real-time accuracy, offering solutions for advertising, personalization, analytics, subscription, and social media engagement.

Their ideal use case is large, sophisticated marketing teams for enterprise-level publishers and membership businesses. 

6. Evolok

Evolok paywall
  • Paywall type: Dynamic
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Print circulation: No
  • Features: Segmentation and personalization, multiple subscription products, ad-blocker detection
  • Pricing: Custom
  • Best fit: Larger publications and media groups

Evolok offers numerous data points and dynamic targeting strategies. It serves as a CRM, handling content access, user data, and payments. The service, aimed at publishers, includes segmentation and consultancy for managing data and financial transactions.

Note subscriber and payment data is managed by their platform. Integrations with other platforms are limited.

7. Admiral

Admiral Paywall
  • Paywall type: Metered
  • Software type: SaaS/JavaScript
  • Print circulation: No
  • Features: Ad Blocker, Free registration, Subscription, Donation
  • Pricing: Starts at $120/mo with revenue share
  • Best fit: Publishers looking for a quick and simple paywall

Admiral provides a one-tag installation for paywall setup and supports multi-site subscriptions. It includes an ad blocker detector to ensure site content displays without interruption. The service has limited configuration options.

Let’s talk paywalls for your news publication

Peter Ericson

Want to learn more about growing your audience and subscriptions with your paywall? Get in touch with Pete.


Paywalls come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s important to start by determining what you need. WordPress native solutions offer flexibility and customizations and Newspack will be able to support them more effectively than third party cloud or SaaS based paywalls.

Contact Pete today if you want to discuss your approach—he’s always happy to see if he can help!

Learn how Leaky Paywall can help grow your subscription revenue