Online publishing platform Verst adds tools for paywalls and prettier websites

Recently launched publishing platform Verst released a big update today, with new features like a homepage builder, new pricing and support for subscription paywalls.

CEO AJ Frank told us that his team’s goal was to create a blogging platform with optimization and analytics already built in. So there’s the core editing interface, but also tools that allow you to do things like A/B test headlines and get notifications when an old post is seeing a spike in traffic.

Since the initial launch, Verst has been adding new features, like support for advertising, but Frank said Verst 2.0 includes two additions — the homepage builder and paywall support — that “feel so different” that he wanted to “demarcate” the new product from the old one.

“Maybe someone who had looked at us three months ago will come back and take another look,” he said.

The homepage builder might not sound all that unusual, but in Frank’s view, it’s the most important addition to the product. By allowing users to create a beautiful front page to their site, Verst is becoming less “blog-centric” and more of “a fully functioning website builder,” he said.

Frank added that Verst has been heavily user testing the homepage builder to find “the balance between tons of customization and making it intuitively easy to use.” You can see a sample homepage here.

As for the paywall feature, Frank said Verst should make it easy for publishers to implement their subscription strategy by designating which articles are available for free and which ones are only accessible to subscribers. Over time, Verst could add support for other types of paywalls, like metered systems where each visitor can only read a certain number of articles for free.

The initial users of Verst include news site Shout, mental health community Stigma and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The service initially cost $29 per month, and it’s still offering a subscription at that price.

However, it’s also adding a $12 plan, which Frank said includes all the core features of the Verst platform, but doesn’t include monetization tools like the support for advertising and paywalls. The idea is to attract users who are serious about writing or otherwise turning their website into a business, but are just starting out and “can’t justify the investment” of paying $29 a month.

And if this sounds interesting to you but you’ve already been publishing on WordPress or Medium, Verst is also introducing a tool that ingests your existing site in minutes and migrates it over to a Verst blog — so it should be relatively painless to switch over.