News media companies worldwide are investing in registration walls

By Greg Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


The number of registration walls in the mobile apps quadrupled last year among the news subscription leaders. Apart of newsletters and comments, registration more frequently unlocked access to bookmarks, extra articles for free and personalisation options. 

Every year, I study for INMA the benefits, registration, and check-out flows on the 50 largest news sites by the number of digital subscribers (per the FIPP’s snapshot). 

In July and August 2020, I found 46 out of the top 50 sites allowed the registration for non-subscribers and offered them free benefits, for example, The New York Times in the United States, The Financial Times in the United Kingdom, or Bild in Germany. 

The remaining four offered benefits to paid subscribers only, for example, The Times of London or Republik in Switzerland.

Top registration benefits: The two most popular benefits for registered users were the publisher’s newsletters and ability to add comments, observed in 46 (100% of the sample) and 21 (46%) sites, respectively. No big changes here.

I saw though increases in the number of publishers that offered in 2020:

  • A feature to save articles to read later (bookmarks) — from 9 to 16, or from 21% to 35%.
  • A registration wall in mobile apps — from 3 to 14, or from 7% to 30%.
  • Personalised content recommendations — from 6 to 9, or from 14% to 20%.
  • Access to extra free content — from 5 to 8, or from 12% to 17%. 

Other popular benefits included: a feature to follow favourite authors or topics (15%), news alerts (13%), podcasts (11%), promotional offers (11%), and online events (11%).

In most cases, the registration benefits were clear from the very beginning. In 196 paths to registration analysed across the 46 publishers, the call to register did not mention any benefits in 62 paths (32% of all) only.

About Greg Piechota

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