The New York Times made waves last month with its paywall, which now requires readers to pay up before they can read more than a teasing amount of news every month. There’s a bit of an algorithm to this, and several ways around it, so it really amounts to more of a low hedge to jump over than a high security fence. Facebook has slowly been implementing its own wall over the last few years — quietly and without much press — much to the pleasure of those taking advantage of the feature. This wall allows those with pages to gate content behind the “Like” button – call it the “likewall.” It’s been recently used by musical artists to garner fans in somewhat of a bribe. If fans like the page, the musician will give out a leak to their newest song. Jennifer Lopez has done it, and so has Lil Wayne. We’ve also all seen it with contests — if you “like” a big brand, along with fill out some info in a third party app, your name will be entered for a drawing for perfume, or a gift card, or something small but substantial. Again, it’s clearly a bribe so that brand or business or band can look like they have more fans.
But today, the New Yorker put a Likewall on a single piece of content — an article by Jonathan Franzen. If you want to read it, you have to “like” the New Yorker. If you choose to like it and read it, the New Yorker has allowed readers to leave comments, which are automatically published on the readers stream for all of their friends to see. But of course, their friends will have to like the New Yorker to read it for any kind of context. A user can also use the Recommend button to share the article without leaving a comment, but again, their friends will have to like the New Yorker, too, to read the article.
This is, of course, a great way of advertising for the New Yorker. But it doesn’t have to be a common publication method, because like Inside Facebook says, brands that utilize a likewall without consistently superb material will water down the concept. But if you’re a strong brand – which, of course, the New Yorker is — and can publish an intriguing piece behind the likewall occasionally in an attempt for more fans, this method will work because it is used rarely and therefore must demonstrate value. However, a random switch to a likewall for all content without any kind of bribe or offer is otherwise too big of a blind risk for consumers who already like hundreds of other brands and are inundated with dozens of posts with worthless content daily (at least, that’s my experience). Consumers want to know there will be a quality benefit to liking yet another brand or band.
What these businesses and brands do with all these fans, though, is yet to be seen. As with all friend counts on personal Facebook pages, follower ratios on Twitter, and fan totals is still just a numbers game. We’re slowly pulling more demographic statistics from these numbers, but until the New Yorker can show that its 3,000 new likes from the likewall are making an impact, I’m hesitant to take any meaning beyond those numbers themselves — except that the tried and true method of bribery still works.