Ad-based paywall






Frontend Development
Backend Development
UX Design
Quality Assurance


AWS Lambda



The project

When the digital editions started attracting greater attention than the printed press, publishers were faced with the following challenge: how to fill the gap that online magazines have created in revenue? The answer they came up with were paywalls: website features that limit users’ access to the online content unless the readers pay for it.

Paywalls are surely a source of a steady user-generated income. However, they aren’t the best solution for advertisers and those publishers who aren’t sure if switching to the subscription model alone will turn out profitable for them.

The solution to this dilemma is Adquesto: the first ad-based paywall which we developed together with a startup from Poznań.

The challenge

The ever-growing popularity of ad blockers might be interpreted as the proof for users’ hatred against ads. The reality of the advertising industry, however, is not as hopeless as it may seem. In fact, when you ask people how they feel about ads, the vast majority will tell you that they generally don’t mind viewing advertisements apart from the ludicrous and obnoxious ones.

Thinking about how to show an ad to the user without insulting their intelligence, Adquesto came up with questvertising. The concept is based on the assumption that gamification of the experience leads to an increase in the engagement and motivation of its participant. Thus, when presented with a paywall that offers a reward in exchange for solving a puzzle, readers are more eager to spare the advertiser a moment of attention and critical thinking.

Questvertising turns out to have numerous advantages for both publishers and advertisers. The former achieve independence from sponsored articles, freedom to create engaging content, and an increase in revenue. For the latter, the most prominent pros include ensuring an in-depth understanding of the ad’s message as well as budget optimization. Additionally, the user benefits too by getting a relatively easy access to valuable material. In the end, it’s a win-win situation for all the parties involved.

How it works

Adquesto is essentially a gamified paywall. From the reader’s perspective, it involves taking the following steps.

Upon entering the website, the user can see a limited part of the article, e.g. the first paragraph. Then, they run into the adquest which comprises of an advert and a comprehension question with three answers. If the user answers correctly, the rest of the article is unblocked. If, on the other hand, the answer is wrong, the user can retake the adquest after 5 seconds. At the bottom of the article, a reminder ad is displayed. When clicked on, it directs the user to the product’s or service’s landing page set for the campaign.

There exists an alternative path that the user can follow as well. Namely, if they are strongly opposed to viewing advertisements, readers can choose to buy a subscription. It ensures free access to a given publisher’s content for a definite period of time.

In addition to serving marketing purpose, Adquesto plays a socially responsible role too. For every correct answer, a portion of revenue is donated to Siepomaga – a Polish online fundraising platform that helps charities and individuals in need. It’s also worth noting that the themes of adquests aren’t limited to commercial content only. For example, in December 2018, an adquest featuring an infographic about the Greater Poland uprising was launched. In this case, Adquesto’s aim was educational in nature: to raise the awareness of the Posnanian War.

The process

When beginning our collaboration with Adquesto in March 2017, little did we know that it was the start of an extensive but exciting adventure.

The development stage spanned 34 two-week-long sprints. Throughout that time, a number of changes regarding both the design of the service and the functioning of the ad display algorithm had been introduced. Fortunately, the close cooperation of Apptension’s team and the client resulted in the successful launch of the final product in September 2018. Since then, we’ve been providing Adquesto with periodic maintenance services to ensure the top quality of their system.

" From the very moment we introduced Apptension to our business idea, we knew that our cooperation will be effective. Their team embodies the values that every client looks for in a technological partner: remarkable project management, flexibility, and full understanding of business goals. What’s most important for a startup like us, however, is that they were ready to adjust the tech stack to our needs and objectives which changed a couple of times throughout the duration of the project. At the same time, Apptension kept ensuring the high quality of the code and optimization of development costs. Beyond a doubt, we couldn’t ask for a better tech partner to work with us on Adquesto. "

Georgios Apostolidis
Product Director at Adquesto

Adquesto is essentially a gamified paywall. From the reader’s perspective, it involves taking the The long-lasting collaboration has turned out to be fruitful in terms of not only achieving business goals but also building human relationships. They proved to be so positive, that Adquesto even brought some gifts for our team during one of their visits at Apptension’s office.

The tech

Our goal was to provide Adquesto with a comprehensive solution that would live up to the startup’s expectations. When faced with the challenge of making the service’s components as light, fast, and easily integrated with the publishers’ websites as possible, we decided to develop a set of web applications. Although each of them serves a different purpose, they remain interrelated in operating the questvertising service.

The technology choices we made reflected the requirements of our client. For the backend part of this project, we decided on Python as the language which offers clarity and fast development of the code, as well as Django as its high-grade framework. To ensure the maximum saving of operational costs while retaining the high quality and efficiency of the service, we went for a serverless solution and used AWS Lambda.

For building the frontend, we picked React JS for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it allowed faster and more user-friendly operation of the single-page applications we developed. Secondly, it made it easier for us to manage the behavior and efficiency of the apps. Finally, due to React JS being a popular library, it was easy for the client’s developers to catch up with our solutions as the project progressed.

The scope of work

The first of several pillars of our collaboration with Adquesto was creating administration panels for three types of users. The first group, publishers, can regulate the way adquests are displayed on the website and monitor the performance of respective campaigns. This panel allows, among others, to turn the quests on and off as well as manually change the position of the quest in every article. Then, the advertiser’s panel delineates the effects of the launched campaigns, such as conversion rate or the number of displayed quests. Finally, the reader’s panel serves primarily managing subscriptions. What’s also interesting is that if the user creates an account and subscribes to a given website, they will be able to log into its service via Adquesto system.

The second aspect of our work was developing the algorithm for displaying ads which calculates the cost of viewing respective quests. This price, however, has to be paid only on condition that the user provides the right answer to the comprehension question. It’s worth mentioning that throughout the development and launching stages, we put our best efforts to make the quests ad blocker-proof. As of today, Adquesto is resistant to many extensions of this type.

Thirdly, we provided Adquesto with a solution for integrating their service with the publisher’s website or blog. For WordPress, we produced a dedicated plugin written in PHP. In addition to that, we developed a custom SDK that can be easily integrated with any other content management system.

The last element of the comprehensive solution we developed for Adquesto were landing pages and websites which presented our client’s partners with the demo of their service.

See also

Hyper - Mixed reality spatial design platform