The Problem With Password-Sharing

The Black Market of Content

You spend a lot of time and effort on crafting amazing content. You want your subscribers to be excited about it. You want them to talk about it and share it.

A good metered paywall like Leaky Paywall will allow just that: broad scale sharing over social media without compromising the incentive to subscribe. After all, people who discover you through a shared article just start their meter when they land on your site to read it.

The problem occurs when they’ve run the meter out. If they want to access more, they can subscribe…or they can find a friend who already has a subscription and use their login info instead.

Password-sharing is a natural concern for any subscription-based service. Research shows that at least 12% of adults will admit to having done it. It seems like a gaping hole in content security, one with the possibility for a great deal of revenue loss.

But here’s something you might not know: it’s just not that big of a deal.

Solutions Cause Problems

There are ways to fight back, of course. You can restrict the access of incognito browsers, you can limit the number of devices a subscriber can use, you can try to limit concurrent logins with a plug-in.

But truthfully, you’re going to run into more problems than you solve.

First, people are clever. If someone is determined to find a way to access your content without subscribing, they probably will. They’ll clear their cookies and try again.

Second, you may also cause problems for your actual subscribers. Maybe they’re traveling, so their IP address registers as unknown. Maybe their immediate household wants to make use of their subscription – which would be a given with a print subscription.

Either of these problems are just going to mean more headaches for you.

Canadian news source iPolitics made an attempt to limit the access of incognito browsers. The result was a flood of helpline messages: “Your site is broken.”

The admin overhead of responding far outweighed the possible benefits of the restriction.

A Human Issue

There isn’t an effective tech solution to password-sharing just yet. Fortunately, some partial solutions can be found in good, old human psychology.

First, if you create good content and offer it at a reasonable price, most people aren’t going to resort to the level of deviousness (or effort) to circumvent your paywall on a regular basis.

Second, you can create subscription plans designed to cater to family or office environments.

You can also work on personalizing content. Take Netflix or Amazon Prime, for example. The viewers’ past content influences what is displayed for their current enjoyment. Subscribers don’t necessarily want to see the recommendations for their freeloaders mixed in with their own.

Ultimately, password-sharing isn’t a tech problem, it’s a human problem. So the solutions must be human-based, too.

Have another way to combat password-sharing? Still have more questions about your content security? Let’s chat.

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