The distinction between Hard and Soft paywalls used to be clear: Hard paywall sites only allowed paying subscribers to view their contents; Soft paywall sites typically used a metered approach...
The distinction between Hard and Soft paywalls used to be clear:
Hard paywall sites only allowed paying subscribers to view their contents;
Soft paywall sites typically used a metered approach that limited non-subscribers to a certain number of free article views per month.
This made tagging paywalled submission here on Tildes, as either
paywall.soft, pretty easy to do, and doing so provided tangible benefits. They let submitters know when to consider providing a summary of the article, or even mirror/alternative links, so non-subscribers weren't left out. It allowed users to easily avoid or filter-out hard paywall submissions entirely, if they so chose. And also indicated when a paywall was soft, and easier to get around (e.g. by clearing browser cache, or viewing in private-browsing mode), so the article could still be read.
However in recent years the distinction between Hard and Soft paywalls has become increasingly blurry. And with all the new, constantly evolving, often opaque, paywall mechanics now in play, it has become more difficult to identify and keep track of what type of paywall a site has. E.g.
Some sites have begun adding article sharing mechanics as a perk for their subscribers (NYT). Some with hard paywalls now allow certain articles of "public interest" to be viewed by everyone (Financial Times). Some still hard paywall their print articles but allow the rest to be viewed for free (Forbes). Some have hard paywalls for recent articles but older ones are free (Boston Globe). Some decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to paywall each individual article, based on editorial board decisions and other unspecified metrics (Business Insider). And apparently some now even switch from Soft to Hard paywalls depending on where in the world the traffic is coming from (WaPo?).
And as a result of all this, accurately tagging paywalled articles here has become increasingly difficult too, especially since there is no easy way to update all previously applied tags on older articles when a site's paywall type changes.
So, the question is, what should we do about this?
Should we simply stop trying to distinguish between hard/soft paywalls in the tags?
Should we add another "hybrid" category?
Should we just do away with the paywall tag entirely?
Or is there a better solution to this problem?
p.s. I started a "Hard vs Soft Paywalls" wiki entry to try to keep track of all the paywall types, as well as the various new mechanics I have been able to identify, for the sites commonly submitted to Tildes.