Science News Site Tries Out a Metered Paywall—Minus the Payments

Science magazine, the popular publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is taking steps toward a metered paywall for its news site. But the experiment will ask for demographic data from its users at first, not cash.

Slowly but surely, the metered paywall—generally associated with the newspaper world—is making inroads in the association space.

Case in point: This week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the magazine Science, announced that it would experiment  with metered access for the publication’s daily news website.

The academic magazine, targeting AAAS members, and its series of journals have long remained behind a paywall, but the news website has been free and has gained a mainstream readership over the years.

“We have a dedicated readership that comes to read news from Science because they can’t find coverage of equal depth and quality elsewhere,” Science News Editor Tim Appenzeller noted in a news release.

The trial run will be slow and steady, and it won’t ask users for payment. Instead, it will push a subset of readers toward multiple tiers of registration: Those who read more than three articles per month will be asked to sign up for the publication’s newsletter, giving them access to eight additional articles. Then, after they’ve read 11 articles in a month, they’ll be asked to become a “news subscriber” and to provide a small amount of demographic information.

The six-month experiment will start with just 5 percent of Science news readers, eventually expanding. Based on the results, the publication may switch to a “soft” paywall for some content.

AAAS says the goal is to gather more information about regular news readers, which will help support advertising sales. Science publisher Bill Moran said the approach is intended to ensure the news outlet’s future growth.

“We recognize our content-reader-revenue environment as an ecosystem, currently stable but with an uncertain future,” Moran said in the news release. “We believe that with the iterative development of a metered paywall we can optimize this ecosystem to make it more productive and robust than ever.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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