posts about or somewhat related to ‘Paywalls’
Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, blog.reddit.com. Now is the Time… to Invest in Gold.
Avoiding overt commercialization because you’re afraid of alienating your online community is honorable, but it will eventually lead to a big question — where, then, do you make money?
Wong, as Mathew Ingram pointed out earlier today, has subtly reminded users about Reddit Gold, a paid membership that comes with perks. Wong also told readers that, no, they are not a very profitable site. They need help, and so they’re asking members to pay if they can.
Ingram thinks it may work, and that it could even work for news sites:
There’s no question that being a community already gives Reddit a better chance of success with this kind of thing, but it is a model that I think more media companies could implement as well, instead of just putting up a blanket paywall around all of their content. This is the idea behind what Wall Street Journal managing editor Raju Narisetti and author Jeff Jarvis have both called a “reverse paywall” — which provides benefits to loyal users and readers instead of charging them — and it seems like a much better fit if what you want to do is build a relationship with your community.
The key is to build and maintain a community where users are able to build reputations for themselves, either through loyal interaction with content, or continued contribution to the community. Think karma.
It may also be that the community needs a strong membership within its large population. Members with Reddit Gold, however, are no such group. But one user has the right idea — noting that some members occasionally see their own artwork posted without attribution, it was suggested that there be a “creddit” button which links to and gives points, perks, etc. to the members that created the shared work.
As Ingram points out, other robust communities have disappeared after the owner of the site tried to profit from them:
Those kinds of decisions, along with other design-related moves that Digg made, arguably poisoned the site’s relationship with its community to the point where many core users left — in many cases for Reddit — and the site’s long slide into irrelevance began.
How can Reddit and similar sites (and even news sites) make money, then? Well if it’s all hinged on their community, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong one that’s filled with, as Clay Shirky has put it, love — members who continue coming back to have conversations, share content and create.
But Wikileaks is not - or should not be - about Julian Assange alone. The idea behind Wikileaks was to provide the public with information that would otherwise being kept secret by industries and governments. Information we strongly believe the public has a right to know. But this has been pushed more and more into the background, instead we only hear about Julian Assange, like he had dinner last night with Lady Gaga. That’s great for him but not much of our interest. We are more interested in transparent governments and bringing out documents and information they want to hide from the public…
…The conclusion for us is that we cannot support anymore what Wikileaks has become - the One Man Julian Assange show. But we also want to make clear that we still support the original idea behind Wikileaks: Freedom of information and transparent governments. Sadly we realize that Wikileaks does not stand for this idea anymore.
Anonymous, Statement on Wikileaks.
Wikileaks alleges that because of the close connection between the company and the government, “these GI Files releases will shed insight into key U.S. federal election players.” For example, the first release of almost 14,000 files are from 2011 and contain the keywords “republican”, “GOP”, “Romney”, “RNC” and “GOP”.
Further, the files were originally obtained by Anonymous-related groups.
And that set Anonymous off. Or, since it’s a decentralized activist group, it set off those behind @YourAnonNews who wrote to their 640,000 followers, “This, dear friends will lose you all allies you still had. @Wikileaks, please die in a fire, kthxbai.”
All have been written about extensively.
But what if we looked at walls from an entirely different direction? Google’s done this with their Consumer Surveys. Instead of asking readers to pull out their wallets to access content, they’re asked to answer a single question. Think of it as a Surveywall.
Frédéric Filloux describes it like so:
Eighteen months ago — under non disclosure — Google showed publishers a new transaction system for inexpensive products such as newspaper articles. It worked like this: to gain access to a web site, the user is asked to participate to a short consumer research session. A single question, a set of images leading to a quick choice.
The solution is one that’s beautiful in its simplicity. Market research is an almost $30 billion industry. And while a lot of it is much more than having people answer surveys, a lot of it is people answering surveys.
So what if you target surveys to, say, readers of certain sections of The Miami Herald, or Wired, or Car and Driver. The researcher wins because it’s a lower cost solution than traditional outreach. The publisher wins because they’ve gained a revenue stream by running the surveys. The reader wins because her wallet stays in her pocket.
There are caveats, of course, which Frédéric outlines:
In theory, the mechanism finally solves the old quest for tiny, friction-free transactions: replace the paid-for zone with a survey-zone through which access is granted after answering a quick question. Needless to say, it can’t be recommended for all sites. We can’t reasonably expect a general news site, not to mention a business news one, to adopt such a scheme. It would immediately irritate the users and somehow taint the content.
I’m not so sure it’s unreasonable. Different, yes, but the entire digital enterprise and the economics behind it is different.
The solution though reminds me of reCAPTCHA, an initiative started at Carnegie Mellon and now run by Google to crowdsource book digitization by harnessing a few seconds of millions of users’ time by having them enter the text they see in a traditional CAPTCHA box (the first word is machine readable, the second isn’t and that’s the one that Google hopes you can decipher).
As Google explains:
About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.
In theory, the micro-surveys of a Surveywall would work similarly. With enough scale to conduct a full survey one question at a time, market researchers gain the insights they’re looking for. The publisher earns more for running the survey than it would get with traditional display advertising.
The question, as it always does, comes back to the reader.
Will she take a few seconds to answer a question, or think it intrusive, close the page and move on?
And that, most likely, comes back to the king of it all: just how valuable is the content that the publisher is providing? — Michael
Michael Wolff, The Guardian. Mobile and the news media’s imploding business model.
Wolff writes that the news media’s reliance on advertising is getting it into ever greater trouble as news readers move from the Web to mobile platforms.
His math is rather simple. For every $100 spent on print advertising, $10 is spent on the Web. And for every $10 spent on the Web, $1 is spent on mobile.
This isn’t because marketing dollars aren’t interested in mobile advertising. It’s because the rate publishers can charge for mobile advertising is so meager.
His guestimated future: there will be more and more paywalls, at least for mobile access.
Yesterday I reblogged a Reuters post that reports that The New York Times will limit free articles to 10 per month. After the repost I linked to a short video we created a while ago about getting around the paywall. To make sixty seconds short, it shows that you just need to delete everything after the “?” mark in the URL and reload the page to access any article you want.
Here’s some criticism for doing so:
- Via Morgan Little from the LA Times: Seems a bit off for @the_FJP to be advocating paywall workarounds…
- Via OnTheChangGang: Don’t be a jerk, if you really want to support journalism and journalists pay to gain access to their hard work and efforts. C’mon use your mind grapes where do people think the money for salaries and investigative stories come from?
- Via SammyStokes: or you know, you could pay for a subscription so the world’s most important newspaper doesn’t go under.
I should say that the criticism is more or less valid. I should also say that my language (“FJP: Paywall got you down? Here’s our 60 second tutorial on getting around it.”) doesn’t help.
Here’s what I should have written if I was thinking at the time:
- The New York Times has about 450,000 digital subscribers. Good for them. I set my parents up with both digital and print editions.
- The New York Times has about 30 million unique visitors a month. Thirty million, if you do your math, is much larger than 450,000, impressive as that number may be.
- This simple hack of removing everything after the “?” mark in order to access articles tells us that the New York Times is still focussed on the 99% of traffic that isn’t subscribing, and is trying to figure out how to monetize nytimes.com to make sure that those non-subscribing uniques can still access, share, and distribute content so that they can grow that number.
- This leak is basically a punt on monetizing the 99% aside from the (considerable) revenue they’re pulling in from advertising and other related businesses.
And so, with that as my backstory to posting a link to a video about how easy it is to get around the NYT paywall, I wrote shorthand about how to do so.
Sometimes when you’re in the weeds you forget the forest for the trees but my link to circumventing the paywall is part of a larger and longer discussion that’s been going on at the FJP about paywalls and how they might work.
The New York Times is very much aware of how leaky their paywall is. It is very much aware that deleting a string from a URL gives anyone access to their content. This is a both a design and business decision that I can’t imagine they’re very much worried about. Otherwise, they’d close this gap.
So, in the meantime, I’ll post again — with the caveat that if you can afford a subscription, purchase a subscription — if you want to view a New York Times article but have bumped up against your monthly allotment, follow the instructions posted here.
If the New York Times wants to shut down this access they can do so quickly and easily. Until then, have at it — Michael
Via Matthew Ingram, GigaOm:
But to me, the biggest flaw in a paywall isn’t that the math is questionable, or even that a wall is inherently a backward-facing strategy, aimed at stacking sandbags around a paper’s content to try to keep out the digital hordes. The biggest flaw from a business perspective, particularly for smaller newspapers, is that walling up your content is an invitation to free competitors — from AOL’s Patch.com and Huffington Post to Mainstreet Connect and Neighborhoodr and Topix.net — to come and take away your readers.
Newspapers like the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal can make paywalls work because their content is extremely focused and (arguably) more valuable than that produced by free competitors. The New York Times is hoping it falls into that category as well, although as a mass-market newspaper, that conclusion is more of a gamble. But if you are a small-town or even medium-sized metro paper, walling off your content could be a recipe for disaster, by giving your more nimble competitors exactly what they are looking for: readers eager for a free alternative.