How much is a free Jonathan Franzen essay worth? If the results of the New Yorker’s recent Facebook experiment are anything to go by, the answer may be somewhere between $57,600 and $2,188,800.
The literary magazine released a free essay by Franzen for one week before it disappeared behind the site’s regular paywall. If you wanted to read it, however, there was a catch–you had to read the essay on the magazine’s Facebook page, and even there, it was only available after you “liked” the magazine. According to Bloggasm’s Simon Owens, that experiment netted the magazine somewhere around 16,000 new fans, before going on to suggest that Facebook fans are “worth” somewhere between $3.60 and $136.38, according to varying estimates.
Of course, how much of the site’s 16,000 new fans came as a direct result of Franzen–as opposed to the buzz generated by free content, everyday Facebook traffic or other sources–can’t be calculated precisely. But if there’s some way the New Yorker – or other magazines – can monetize this limited-free-material model, it might be a good thing for new readers and content producers alike.
Perhaps that’s worth “liking” all by itself.
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