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Forget the pay wall: introducing the like wall

Faced with the reality that viable businesses require revenue, more and more newspapers and magazines are erecting pay walls on their websites.

But paid content isn’t a panacea, and it’s far easier — and more comfortable — to erect a pay fence. Case in point: the New York Times, whose new pay wall features enough holes to fit a truck through.

Soon, publishers may turn to a new tool for ‘selling‘ free content: the like wall.

Recently, The New Yorker, a weekly magazine published by Condé Nast, offered up a 1,200 word article written by Jonathan Franzen gratis, but only if you accepted a bribe to like The New Yorker on Facebook.

Some reports suggest that the like wall technique resulted in more than 10,000 new Facebook fans. Prior to the article, The New Yorker had close to 200,000 fans.. Today, it is nearer to 220,000.

Of course, The New Yorker downplayed the fan count from the very start. “Our goal with this isn’t just to increase our fans,” a spokesperson stated. “We want to engage with people who want to engage on a deeper level.

And therein lies the rub: it’s hard to determine just where the engagement is here. Acquiring new fans on Facebook is great, but just how valuable are they, particularly when all that’s required on their part is to click a ‘like‘ button?

Even with sophisticated, active Facebook Page management, there’s plenty of reason to question just how strong the relationships between brands and consumers are on the site.

Which raises an interesting question: if newspapers and magazines are willing to give their content away for free in an effort to “engage on a deeper level“, why not use email? After all, not only is email self-owned, the evidence indicates that, from online retail to local, email may not be the sexiest channel, but it is one of the most effective.

The answer to that question: far too many publishers are still leaving the ‘strategy‘ out of their digital content strategies. Instead of looking to create value for themselves by convincing consumers that they offer value, they’re far too willing to offer what they have without asking for much in return. The like wall is just the latest example of that.

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