Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shirky on Paywalls

Awesome article by Clay Shirky on The Times paywall. It's a great read by one of my favorite tech writers and there is lot's of good stuff about newspapers and newsletters, etc. However, my favorite quote is really a throw away comment on Twitter & Facebook.

"As of July, non-subscribers can no longer read Times stories forwarded by colleagues or friends, nor can they read stories linked to from Facebook or Twitter. As a result, links to Times stories now rarely circulate in those media. "

Twitter & Facebook have now achieved what Google's Search Engine achieved - The Distribution Channel is more powerful than the Content. For a long time, those services needed the Content so that they would be viable. NY Times articles in your Facebook Feed again and again taught the user to believe that they could get their news from Facebook. The Internet services piggybacked on the Content but now they are too powerful to opp out of. That was always the Newspapers' problem with Google. If you blocked Google from crawling your site, you killed your site because Google referred the most traffic on the web. Even worse, Google just pushed that traffic to one of your competitors. Well, that's the new reality with Twitter & Facebook, so now the 3 biggest traffic referrers on the web (I think they are top 3 but if not, they will be next year) have channels that 1) Demand free, and 2) You can't opt out of.

In a few short years, things have actually gotten worse for Paid Content.

P.S. Apple is the only Referrer (I'm using this loosely) that is not free and still likes transactions.