Experiences with Paid Content: Interview with 'Der Bank Blog' Publisher Dr. Hansjörg Leichsenring

For more than three decades, Dr. Hansjörg Leichsenring has closely followed the trends and ongoing developments in the financial services sector. Banks and other financial service providers can avail themselves of his expertise as a consultant and (interim) manager. His website, ‘Der Bank Blog,’ has garnered a number of awards, and was most recently recognized as ‘Finance Blog of the Year 2015.’ For over a year, Hansjörg Leichsenring has been using LaterPay to monetize selected background articles and studies on his blog. We asked him to share some of his experiences with paid content and its acceptance among his readers.

Welcome to the Mass Market: Cosmin Ene on Experiences with Paid Content in 2016

The market for paid content is on the move. The past year saw experimentation with novel approaches, and the entire publishing world can benefit from these experiences. After all, from what we have seen so far, finding the right path for a media brand to develop a new and sustainable source of revenue based on paid content is never a single event, but a continuous learning process.

ModSecurity and Puppet Spelunking

This week I have made my first (non-README) contribution to a puppet module.

I was attempting to configure ModSecurity using the puppetlabs-apache puppet module when I discovered that the '/var/log/httpd/modsec_audit.log' file contained the request body for rejected requests. For PCI-DSS reasons, this was not desirous, so I set out to learn how I could configure ModSecurity to stop doing that.

First I consulted the ModSecurity audit log documentation and learnt that you can choose which sections to include in the audit log with the 'SecAuditLogParts' directive. Helpfully the audit log file contains section separators (e.g. '--be604c0a-C--') which have a section identifier—in this case 'C'—which corresponds to the “request body” part. So, all I had to do was ensure that I removed 'C' from the 'SecAuditLogParts' directive. Simples!

There was just one teeeny tiny problem. My '/etc/httpd/conf.d/security.conf' contained the below line, and look ma, no 'C' to be seen. Drat.

SecAuditLogParts ABIJDEFHZ

My first thought was that perhaps my config file was not read and ModSecurity was running with its defaults, which are documented to be 'ABCFHZ'. Or perhaps there was an error in the config file further up so it was only partly read. (Although I judged the chance of the latter slim, since no warnings or errors were logged about corrupt config.) To test this I changed the 'SecAuditLog' directive (which was the last directive in the file) and restarted Apache. I provoked ModSecurity again, and lo and behold it logged to the audit log with the new name. So at least I had confirmed that the config file was read.

I also discovered that my audit log had the 'E' section in them, which is not in the default, so I went back to re-read the documentation for the audit log sections. I won’t bother you with details of how my lips moved when carefully reading the text, but here’s our culprit:

I: This part is a replacement for part C. It will log the same data as C in all cases except when multipart/form-data encoding in used. In this case, it will log a fake application/x-www-form-urlencoded body that contains the information about parameters but not about the files. This is handy if you don’t want to have (often large) files stored in your audit logs.

Using the 'C' section identifier in the log file when all the other sections map directly from the section part selector to the section identifier is unintuitive, to say the least. I wasted quite a lot of time because of this and filed an issue about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is never fixed as third-party tools rely on the current behaviour though.

Moving on! I now had a plan. All I had to do was remove the 'I' part selector from the 'SecAuditLogParts' directive. Unfortunately this was not configurable through 'puppetlabs-apache'. It was hardcoded in the 'security.conf.erb' template. The plan now became “moaning to friends” about my situation. In private. (I am a grown-up, and a professional, after all.)

Turns out I moaned to the right friends. After receiving some encouragement and pointers from Dean Wilson I set out to contribute the ability to configure which sections you want printed to the 'modsec_audit.log' file to 'puppetlabs-apache'. It was much simpler than I thought, and culminated in a pull request that was merged pretty swiftly.

If you’re thinking: “that’s cool. I could use that actually. What do I have to do?” then don’t worry—I’ve got your back! It may be a little while before there’s a new release, but if you use librarian-puppet to manage your puppet modules you can easily install the tip of the current master branch by putting this in your 'Puppetfile':

mod 'puppetlabs-apache',
 :git => 'https://github.com/puppetlabs/puppetlabs-apache.git'

You can then select which sections you want printed to the 'modsec_audit.log' file by putting something like this in a relevant hiera file:

apache::mod::security::audit_log_parts: ABZ

f you don’t use hiera, you can set it directly from a puppet manifest like so: 

class { '::apache::mod::security':
 audit_log_parts => 'ABZ' 
}

By the way, please do not blindly copy 'ABZ' from the above example, but refer to the audit log documentation and make an informed choice as to which sections you want to log to your audit log. Every app is different and what’s right for mine is not necessarily right for yours. (Especially since that isn’t actually what I use: I just felt it rolled off the tongue nicely for this example, if you pronounce the 'Z' like a 'C', as some are wont.)

New LaterPay Connector

Charge for your digital content with just one line of code

LaterPay enables your customers to purchase your digital content by letting them access your content now and register and pay later. Now, we are making things easier on you, too, with the introduction of LaterPay Connector.

LaterPay Connector makes implementation simple, with just a single line of code to add to your existing website. While we already offer API and WordPress plugin options, LaterPay Connector opens up the use of LaterPay for even the busiest digital content providers now that setting it up is so streamlined.

connector

You have full control over your revenue model and pricing:

  • Charge for access to single pages on your website, or for entire categories of pages.
  • Set individual prices for each piece of content, or offer customers Time Passes that allow them access to specific content for a set period of time.
  • Using LaterPay allows customers an easy way to see what you have to offer, making them more likely to subscribe later if they like what they see.
  • It’s easy to use: LaterPay’s functions are accessed via a simple web interface.
  • Optimize your pricing and revenue models with LaterPay’s easy-to-use back-end statistics dashboard that keeps you up-to-date on your sales, allowing you to test and learn what your customers prefer.

Thomas Cloer, Executive Editor at German tech mag Computerwoche.de, said of LaterPay, “With the Connector now available, LaterPay should be integrated with little effort into complex web sites and content management systems.” 

We're eager to hear how you like Connector, so please keep us posted as you get set up and start using it! 

 

To learn more about our one-line integration for content providers, click here

Still have questions? Write us at support@laterpay.net, or leave a comment below.