Off-the-shelf paywall?


I'm in the process of building a subscription-based content service. Users pay a monthly fee for one of a number of levels of service, and in return get regular emails and website access corresponding to their level of service.

I tend to just write things myself, and it seems to me like ActiveMerchant plus a bit of custom Rails stuff should do the trick, but maybe I'm creating too much work for myself. Is there an off-the-shelf solution out there to create the kind of paywall I'm going for?

Payments Subscriptions Web

asked Oct 14 '09 at 22:17
50 points
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3 Answers


I was in the same position myself about 6 months ago and wasn't super happy with the solutions I found. All of them took a little more work and a little more money than I wanted to put in so I did something that would get me laughed out of the room if I admitted it.

I punted on it.

I decided that I could deal with automating payment handling when people enough people started paying me that I could no longer do it manually. I figured it'd be one of those good problems to have.

So when a user subscribed I basically did an INSERT with the payment info and sent myself an email alert that someone had signed up. The system immediately started treating that person as a subscriber on the site.

I would manually fetch the payment info out of the DB, delete the sensitive bits and then manually enter it into AMEX/Visa/MC merchant software as a recurring payment. Not exactly PCI compliant but it got the job done.

This of course isn't really the advice you were asking for but consider it if you are just starting up and looking for your first few paying customers. It's not for everyone, but for some of us this is one of those cans you can usually kick down the road a little bit.

answered Oct 14 '09 at 23:02
Doug Bright
141 points
  • We are actually doing exactly the same thing. Getting to bogged down with payments to process is a good problem for us to have. The only difference is that I was too paranoid to store 'sensitive' bits, we just encrypt and store the bare minimum - i.e. we are PCI Compliant, but are paying a higher rate. – Vineet 14 years ago
  • +1, I 100% agree. Most operational things that eventually should be automated should be done manually first. That way you learn EXACTLY what you need, and then you build what's necessary versus what you think is necessary. Cheers Doug, great answer. – Jason 14 years ago


I like Doug's advice. But there are some services out there that take the headache of doing this a lot less painful, and might be worth exploring a but. Spreedly is a good one, I've used and would recommend. Run by a seasoned Rails guy, Nathaniel Talbot, and has some helpful documentation. And Chargify looks like it might be pretty good as well.

answered Oct 19 '09 at 02:45
Nathan Kontny
1,865 points


Im sorry guys, I am a Merchant Services provider and if you ever get compromised in any way, via hacker or whatever it might be, Visa/MC/Disc/AMEX will put you out of business with fines and assessments and pull your ability to EVER take credit cards.Fines start for 1 offense at $50,000.00, you don't want to go there!!! There are MANY MANY systems that are available and PCI Compliant. We use for online processing, its easy fast and very little labor involved. One of my biggest clients is processing $100,000.00 per day with about 10 minutes of labor.The fact is this is YOUR business and sometimes there are parts of it that aren't fun but must be done. Email me at [email protected] I will help you with any questions or any advise you may want for free! Not out to sell you, just want you to be educated and informed and NOT compromising your livelyhood!

answered Oct 19 '09 at 04:07
Rick Montgomery
12 points
  • -1 and Flagged as Spam. – Alex Papadimoulis 14 years ago
  • @Alex Papadimoulis, why not let someone do a commercial pitch if it is on topic? I personally do not see this as spam. (I am not related in any way to Rick). – Tucson 13 years ago

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