Digital Marketing

Require Email: Two ways to require a subscription before a download

What I’m explaining here are two ways to require email before the user downloads a PDF (or other asset). A while back, I began sharing the presentation decks from my digital classes at General Assembly via this website. In each case, I used a different method of “hiding” a PDF file behind the requirement to provide an email address.

No Developer Required to Require Email

I’m sure there are dozens of ways to do this, but many of those methods may require a developer. I wanted to share these two ways anyone can require email from users in exchange for a download.

WordPress

The first is a simple WordPress plugin called – wait for it – “Email before Download.” Yes, they get very creative in their naming. Using this plugin, you host the file (PDF, PPT, or whatever) on your own server. You require users to enter their name and email address prior to seeing the link to download the file. I use this method for distributing the PDF version of my presentation decks when I taught a class. It works flawlessly, and I can update the PDFs whenever I make changes to the content.

Updated Jan 22, 2018 – I have been informed via a comment to this post that the “Email before Download” plugin for WordPress is no longer available. Sadly, it’s true. However, one of the reasons we love WordPress is that there is never only one solution to any issue. A simple Google search for “wordpress plugin to require email for a download” reveals several other plugins to accomplish the same task. Here are two:

Updated Jan 30, 2018: Life comes at you fast! Just a week after I updated this post with the above ‘bad news’ update I have learned via a comment to this post that the Email before Download plugin for WordPress has just been updated to version 5.0. Check it out.

Mailchimp

The second method is from Mailchimp, and is really, really easy. I used Mailchimp to distribute two eBooks on atlantatechblogs.com. Mailchimp’s documentation is perfect. I completed the entire setup in less than 10 minutes. Using this method, you host the file on Mailchimp’s servers. The file can be delivered via a confirmation email or confirmation page on your website. You do all the configuration within your Mailchimp account.

Update January 22, 2017 – Mailchimp now offers free basic Landing Pages, making this process of gating content and requiring an email address even that much simpler.

Now It’s Easy For Anyone to Require Email

I remember how much fun it used to be to host and distribute a PDF way back when at CWNP. Back then, we a FT developer maintaining our website. We later moved completely to WordPress so that we would not require a developer. If you want to distribute your content and require an email address in exchange, these two ways are simple and work really well, even for non-developers.

17 thoughts on “Require Email: Two ways to require a subscription before a download

  1. Thanks for the helpful article!

    I currently use Email Before Download, which requires/integrates with Download Monitor. I also have Sitelock (a malware scanner) on my website which recently identified vulnerabilities in the Download Monitor plugin.

    As such I’m considering switching to the Mailchimp method you mentioned above as I already use Mailchimp to manage my list.

    Do you know if there is a way to have a different welcome message/download link go out for different pages? I have a couple of pages where I give away photography presets but don’t necessarily want to give those links to each person who joins my list – I’d rather tailor it to where they entered their email on my site.

    Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. My understanding is that you can, but not from a Forever Free account. That, like letting subscribers choose what list or segment they want to subscribe to, is a paid feature.

  2. Hi Kevin, thanks. I read Email before Download is no longer available. Regardless (assuming a similar plugin is), do you prefer Option A or Option B mail chimp above. Why did you choose option B over option A (WP plugins) for your books?

    1. Hi James – I chose Mailchimp because Mailchimp then hosts your PDF (or other download), removing that ‘moving part’ from your blog or website, and enabling Mailchimp’s to deliver the PDF and all the emails around it.

  3. Thanks Kevin – is mailchimp more suitable to email campaigns? And using the WP plug-in method more suited to a website with free downloads?

  4. Hi, I am using Download Monitor and Mailchimp for WP and Mailchimp Lock. It all seems to work well but I have a similar problem as above and have yet to find a solution.

    In Mailchimp you provide the subscriber with a link to the download in the Welcome Email sent out by Mailchimp. I have set this up for my Book Sampler but now want to offer more handouts (PDF) in exchange for the user subscribing. I cannot see how I do this without multiple Mailchimp Lists.

    Any suggestions on best way to do this.

  5. Can I do this with a free WordPress.com site? I’m not ready to start providing freebies to people quite yet however it’ll he good to know if I can or if I have to upgrade to a paid WordPress before I can add a plugin like mail chimp

  6. Have you ever had an issue with email before download where it sends 3 emails to the admin and 3 confirmation emails to the person who wants the link?

  7. Great topic, I’m surprised how little information there is on this subject since most software products I download require email only. I need the experience integrated into my WordPress site. After trying Email Before Download and Download Monitor, I wound up going with Download Manager, using their Email Lock feature. It’s not perfect, but is much more robust.

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