When Block Club Chicago – a monthly, subscription-paywall publication – launched, its publishers wanted to drive traffic and interest by making all of its content free at first. Their focus would be to collect email registrations to start building a funnel for when they would eventually turn their paywall on and ask people to pay.
Meanwhile, the journalists behind Block Club have thousands of fans from previous publications they worked for and knew that a sizable portion of their early audience would be willing to subscribe right away. They wanted a way to capture this revenue immediately without turning their paywall on so as not to push away new readers.
Here's what they did:
1. Request registration/email signup every article or two. (You could alternatively require registration to read beyond a certain number of articles.)
2. Create the subscription plan they wanted to offer their early adopters, but whitelist all content. (They did this by applying the paywall only to articles with a tag that no article actually had affixed to it, e.g. "premium".)
3. Even though no reader would hit a paywall prompting them to subscribe, Block Club could get readers to enter the subscription checkout flow by promoting the early subscription offer with custom elements around their site (e.g., "subscribe-button" and "subscribe-header-button"). By linking these custom elements to the subscription plan, clicking one of them would launch the user into that subscription checkout flow.
For more on using custom buttons, see Setting custom triggers.