Are Paywalls Effective? 60% of Internet Users Avoid Them [Data]

All About Cookies surveyed internet users to find out how many avoid sites that use paywalls, popular methods people use to get around paywalls, and more.
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Whether it’s an article you want to read, a video you want to watch, or a forum you want to access, most internet users know the sting of an unexpected paywall.

Paywalls, a form of “gated” content where users are prompted to pay to access parts of websites, are a way that sites limit or restrict a user’s ability to access their full content unless they pay for it, often in the form of a subscription. Want to read it? Make sure you pay for the privilege.

Though paywalls seem to be becoming more prevalent, they’ve been fairly common since the late 2000s. That means people have been trying to find ways around them for more than a decade with certain tips and tricks for accessing paywalled content getting passed around the internet.

All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 people to explore how they feel about paywalls and sites that use them, how effective paywalls are at converting users into subscribers, and the most common methods for getting around them.

In this study
How many people avoid sites with paywalls?
The top ways people get around paywalls
Are people subscribing to paywalled content?
What are people willing to spend if one-time fees were an option?
Don’t let your guard down when unlocking a paywall
Advice from our expert

Key Findings:

  • Avoiding websites with paywalls is common. The majority of people (60%) report avoiding sites that they know have paywalls on them.
  • Internet users have found ways to get around paywalled content. Browsing in incognito mode (43%), searching for a headline in Google (41%), and creating a new account to access a free trial (35%), are the most common methods used.
  • Some users are willing to pay for content, but it’s far from the majority. Only 30% of users have purchased a subscription to access exclusive content. When asked about one-time fees, $1.01 was the average amount people would pay to view a blocked article.

How many people avoid sites with paywalls?

Internet users tend to have opinions, often strong ones, about different websites, revisiting their favorites often and avoiding ones that they dislike. So how do paywalls impact user opinions and behavior?

Pie chart showing the impact of paywalls on browsing behavior

Using a paywall has a significant negative impact on how likely the majority of people are to use a given website. In fact, three out of every five people (60%) say they actively avoid websites that they know use a paywall, indicating just how much the average person dislikes running into inaccessible content.

The top ways people get around paywalls

So what do people do when a paywall is unavoidable? They try to get around it. In fact, more than half of internet users look for a way to bypass it and access the content they want to see for free.

There are a number of common methods people use to get around paywalls with some being more popular than others. Here’s a look at the top methods.

Chart showing the most common methods of bypassing paywalls

Among respondents who indicated they’ve tried to get around a paywall before, 43% say they’ve tried using their browser’s incognito mode, making it the most common method listed.

Pasting an article headline into Google and looking for a free version of the same story is the second most popular trick as 41% have tried it.

More than a third of people have also tried creating a new account to access a free trial period (35%) or using a browser extension that’s expressly designed to get around paywalls (33%).

Are people subscribing to paywalled content?

Another way to access paywalled content — and the one that websites hope people will choose — is to simply pay for it. But how often does that actually happen?

Pie chart showing the majority of people wouldn't pay for paywalled content

While the majority of people have never paid for a subscription to access paywalled content before, a good chunk of the population has. About a third of people surveyed (29%) have decided that paywalled content somewhere online was worth their hard-earned dollars and purchased a subscription.

What are people willing to spend if one-time fees were an option?

Of course, sometimes the cost of a full subscription isn’t worth it for users who simply want to read a single piece of content, which means they either find a way around the paywall or never see the content on that site at all.

But if they had the option to pay a one-time fee instead of a full subscription to read the blocked information, what’s the magic number that they’d be willing to shell out? We asked people how much they would hypothetically pay.

The average amount people would pay to access content

When presented with this scenario, the average amount respondents said they’d be willing to pay for quick and easy access to one article at a time is $1.01.

Don’t let your guard down when unlocking a paywall

Always make sure you trust the website you’re giving your information to. But even the most trustworthy websites can be part of a data breach, so follow these best practices to keep your information safe.

  • Invest in identity theft protection. Identity theft protection services are a great way to monitor your personal data and financial information as paywall opt-ins require an online transaction.
  • Install a password manager. Manage all of your subscription logins and credentials in one spot with the help of a password manager.
  • Browse with a VPN. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are easy to use and offer an additional layer of security when visiting online news sites and blogs.

Advice from our expert

While our study gave us a much better understanding of the ways people are bypassing paywalls, we wanted to learn how to better protect ourselves from malware and malicious links. Here’s what our industry expert had to say.


All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or older using a survey platform. Responses were collected in April and May 2024.

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Author Details
Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how tech overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.