Are Paywalls Killing Facebook?

There is a BIG problem with newspaper paywalls when it comes to social media. Facebook Logo

Let’s say you are a subscriber to your local newspaper, and you read a GREAT article you want to share with the world. Go ahead, link it through Facebook and Twitter – tell all your friends.

Well, here’s the problem. Your friends can’t see it if it’s behind a paywall.

So say you’re an award winning newspaper doing a blowout job on a story of national import – and people are linking you all across God’s green earth – well, do you stubbornly keep your content behind the paywall, or share your gold with the world? It’s a tough call.

The Seattle Times has dealt with this recently – and Poynter did this piece about the conundrum:

The Poynter article talks about how the idea of “importance” drives this dilemma. But again, my thesis is that it also wraps into the overall utility of social media.

This issue is a true Hobson’s choice – get your content paid for through a paywall as you absolutely, rightfully should – or – encourage people to drive eyeballs to your site – which you absolutely, rightfully should.

The trick, as is the case in any Hobson’s choice with an “or” at the center of it, is to turn the “or” into an “and.”

Good luck with that. Even though I know what I think the end result should be, I can’t figure how to get there.

It’s becoming an issue as great content producers FINALLY stick to their guns to get paid, but also have to engage on social media where we all expect to link around like crazy people all day long.

I am a working journalist – and I get a lot of my news off of Facebook where people I monitor post, and suggest links.

That should tell you something about what social media has become. (For you PR types who still don’t understand what I do – it means I look at Facebook to see what people are talking about and what they think is good)

But with paywalls going up, I’ve noticed that Facebook is now full of crap links. Crap links point you toward pseudo-scienitific articles and blog pieces written by extremist think tanks or thinly disguised blog-clubs with zero credibility – all packaged to look like journalism somehow associated with a meaningful publication. It’s not. It’s click-whoring crap.

The good, vetted, content increasingly sits behind paywalls.

This is diminishing the utility of Facebook and other social media as a “marketplace of ideas” and – generally degrading the level of discourse.

But what to do? How do we keep paying the creators of good content – and still link each other to the good stuff?

I don’t know.

But it is a thing.