Do paywalls hurt social news? - SmartBrief

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Do paywalls hurt social news?

2 min read

Digital Technology

Today’s post comes from Elena Ziebarth, a new product development associate at SmartBrief.

Last week’s paidContent 2010 conference tackled the future of the publishing industry in the digital world.   The New York Times recently announced that they are establishing a metered model for their online properties, where a nonsubscriber would pay a flat fee for a month’s worth of access to its articles and blogs.   A nonsubscriber that reaches an article or blog post via Google search or a link would be allowed a few free views before having to pay for the month’s worth of access.

During lunch at last Friday’s event, paidContent’s Staci Kramer interviewed three members of the New York Times’ leadership — Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher; Janet Robinson, president and CEO; and Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations — on their expectations for the metered model.

Nisenholtz said about 60% of New York Times online readers access the site through the homepage — the “front door” — including many heavy readers, or those consuming more than 10 articles per month.  Readers coming through “side doors” such as non-NYT blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. are negligible, and under the proposed metered model, they would have to pay after reaching a certain number of article or blog views, he said.

With the recent news of Facebook surpassing Google as the top access point to news portals such as Yahoo! and MSN, you have to wonder if the New York Times metered model will actually work as intended. If traffic to the New York Times online site via “side doors” continues to grow as more and more people depend on their friends’ recommendations in Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, will the New York Times’ meter hinder the sharing of its articles and blog posts, therefore hurting its potential for ad sales revenue and overall subscriber growth?

LeAnn Prescott of VenturaBeat recently panned the New York Times’ plan, writing: “It seems underhanded for any online news site to encourage social-media sharing, but not allow everyone to read the articles.”

What’s your take?  Are paywalls and/or meters that control access to news content at complete odds with social media?   Are big media companies such as the New York Times missing an opportunity to increase the number of their loyal readers that could come via social media channels?

Image credit, enot-poloskun, via iStock