Screen shot 2011 02 09 at 12.31.41 260x149 Cleeng launches a simple, social alternative to paywallsCleeng, a WordPress plugin that lets anyone from casual bloggers to professional publishers charge for whole articles, parts of articles or indeed any element of a page, is now out of private beta and taking sign-ups from the public.

As we reported last month, Cleeng lets its users offer a “halfway-house” between a free website and a paywalled one. Publishers can easily opt to make parts of their websites “premium” while the rest of the site remains freely accessible. Individual parts of the page can be “covered up”, requiring a charge to unlock them.

Screen shot 2011 02 09 at 12.46.46 260x158 Cleeng launches a simple, social alternative to paywallsCleeng focuses on small payments, allowing publishers to charge between $0.15 and $0.99. It also rewards social sharing, paying commission to people who successfully refer customers to content via special short URLs.

Netherlands-based Cleeng says that it has already attracted 200 content producers, including 40 publishers, and is in discussions with several major European newspapers and magazines to provide content monetization solutions for their websites.

For an example of how it works, take a look at this page and scroll down the Cleeng-branded section. This one is free to unlock, but shows how it works. “Paywalled” sections can be co-branded to help it fit the design of your page. The videos below demonstrate the user experience for both readers and publishers.

Will the idea take off?

It’s certainly a compelling alternative to full-on paywalls. Another monetization tactic, to be used soon by the New York Times, is to give away a certain number of articles per month before users have to pay. That may, however, actually reduced users’ willingness to stick around on a website for long periods of time as they try to hold on to “credits” for pages they really want to read in future, without ever paying.

Cleeng’s approach of “teasing” content is interesting as it allows publishers to easily tweak exactly how much content they monetize. The “tease” approach may frustrate and drive away readers unwilling to pay, of course, so getting that balance right will be key to making a success of using Cleeng on a website.

Cleeng is open for publishers to sign up to today.