The question’s becoming as hackneyed as holding a piece of newsprint in your hands: How do you monetize online journalism while keeping your readership? Enter the New York Times’, whose paywall just went up March 28th to convince online loyalists to shell out cash for a look at the Gray Lady.
The New Yorker is also testing out a wall for its content, but one that curiously eschews cash. One of their recent articles just went up behind a “Like” wall on Facebook, requiring a simple (if soul-sucking) click to access a 12,000-word Jonathan Franzen piece. In the “Fans Only” section on their Facebook page, The New Yorker displays a teaser of Franzen’s piece, beckoning the reader to click the blue thumbs-up in order to read the full text of the author’s journey to the South Pacific island of Alejandro Selkirk to reflect on the passing of author David Foster Wallace.
Depending on your vantage, Facebook clicks can be even more lucrative than cash in hand. The New Yorker gains valuable demographic insight from the article’s “Likers.” The magazine can gauge exactly who’s reading their site using Facebook Insights, part of the administrative section of any fan page, which breaks down “Likes” into age, gender, location, referral source, and how many people the page was shared with. These numbers are honey-gold to The New Yorker’s website and magazine advertisers.
Demographics aside, The New Yorker can bank on the power of the Internet. After a user “Likes” the piece, it’s shared with all that person’s friends, at which point they’ll be compelled to click through, “Like” the piece themselves, and perpetuate the cycle. And “Likers” will see any new New Yorker content pop up on their walls, building engagement and their likelihood of returning. As they say, “Mo’ money!”
The “Like” wall turns out to be a model print media swiped from the recording industry. Lil Wayne and Jennifer Lopez have each put up “Like” walls for their new singles, requiring adoring fans prove their online adulation before getting a musical taste.
Only time will tell if the model can keep print media afloat, but you can always do your part by clicking the New Yorker‘s “like” button.
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