Could El Pais’ new paywall be a better reader experience?

By Grzegorz Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


With its 83 million unique browsers, El Pais is the biggest Spanish-language news site in the world. Earlier this month, it launched a paywall.

A new digital subscription model was in the works for a year. The launch of the paywall was originally scheduled in March, but then the pandemic broke and it was postponed. Readers could subscribe voluntarily and, as El Pais announced, thousands did.

El Pais catches up with the global shift to reader revenue and its main competitor in the core Spanish market, El Mundo, that launched its paywall in October last year.

  • El Pais chose a meter model that limits free reading to 10 articles per month. Additionally, some feature articles require registration.
  • The paid value proposition includes unlimited access to all content, a reduced advertising inventory on the Web and in the app, a right to add comments, and access to “exclusive cultural experiences”.
  • The recommended offer is a monthly digital subscription for €1 in the first month and €10 afterwards. There is also an annual digital package for €108 and a bundle that includes print for €40 per month. 

Recently, I tested the Web-based purchase flow of El Pais and, at the first sight, I found it rather complex. That inspired me to analyse it in detail and ideate ways to optimise it. 

  • My biggest doubt is whether it is a good idea to require setting up an account at El Pais before collecting payment data, as it is adding friction and risk that the reader abandons the purchase flow.
  • The registration form requires data points that are hardly necessary at this stage, such as the date of birth, potentially adding to the friction.
  • Last but not least, the registration flow requires the new reader to validate the account by clicking on a link in the confirmation e-mail.
  • All this seems to be the kind of an unnecessary friction that made U.S. metro publishers lose, per The Lenfest Insitute’s benchmarks, 85% of prospect customers that entered the purchase flow.
  • Luckily, at El Pais there’s an option to register with a Facebook or Google login that simplifies the process for many users.
  • Still, right after choosing the plan, the reader needs to first scroll the plan’s description one more time and confirm. Again.
  • I wonder whether one couldn’t reduce friction in the flow by capturing essential customer and payment data in one step instead of three. E-mail is essential as an identifier to confirm the sale and claim the benefits. A password or a date of birth are not essential.
  • And if a password is needed later, a publisher could generate it for the reader or send a link to a password entry page after the completed purchase.

What do you think? How would you optimise the flow of El Pais? How did you work on optimising yours? 

Interested in the optimisation of registration flows? We had a great meet-up last week. Check a written summary, or watch a video recording. 

Banner image courtesy of Talha Khalil from Pixabay.

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