It’s an interesting time to be a writer, and indeed to be a publisher in general. Whilst online publishing has flourished off the back of largely free content, there is coming a realisation that great content is not, and many will say should not, be free.
How this can be achieved is still a bone of contention for the media industry. Whilst some big brand publishers have put content behind a paywall, there is still much debate over whether this is a viable strategy or not. Google have tried an alternative approach this year, adding a new feature to their Wallet payment processing system that allows publishers to collect micro-payments from readers in order to free up the remainder of the content.
Building a sharewall rather than a paywall
Whilst it’s an interesting approach, I’m far from convinced that it’s one that will provide writers with much of an income, at least not yet. Another approach being tried by Inside Social is to place part of an article behind a ‘sharewall’. It’s very similar to the paywall approach used by Google, but instead of making a micropayment, you have to follow or share the content on Facebook or Twitter in order to read the rest.
You can see an example of this in action on this article. Do the relevant sharing and I’ll give you my thoughts on whether this is a good thing or not.
Ok, so you followed me on Twitter, so thanks for that. What do I think of this system? I’m not convinced it’s the answer to the problem of how to make blogs pay, and I think this for a number of reasons.
- I don’t think shares are that valuable – There was some research done recently by HubSpot suggesting that many people retweet something without even reading the content. In other words they’re assuming something is worth sharing either by a great headline or by the reputation of the person writing the content. What this means is that a high number of shares doesn’t always reflect a high number of visits. Now a share is nice, but if you’re relying on ad revenue to earn a living from your blog, it’s not ideal.
- The impact on SEO -For many blogs, I suspect that search engines still represent the main source of traffic. That’s certainly still the case on this one. As such, there are clear risks involved when you make a chunk of your content out of sight of the Google spiders. With Inside Social you can get around this by specifying when the sharewall is erected, so for instance you could say it only comes up after people have read your article twice.
- It might annoy readers – In an ideal world, people would follow you or share things because they love what you’re producing. If you’re forcing them to do so in order to read content it kinda feels a bit like blackmail. I’m sure many readers will appreciate the commercial realities behind the decision, but when you’re fighting hard to attract and retain every customer, is it really wise to make it harder for them?
Of course, I may be wrong here, and do please let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Did you find it a nuisance? Would you consider adding this to your own site?