November 06, 2011

#Facebook ain't salvation for #newspapers

Unfortunately, from blindly buying into Facebook-based commenting systems rather than internally controlling commenting as part of a paywall, to thinking that "socializing" every editorial employee if not every employee of the newspaper with a corporate-backwalled Facebook account, it seems like too many newspapers are still looking for and buying into easy fixes.

The reality, though, is different.

First of all, some newspapers continue the same stupidity that got them into trouble in the first place.

For instance, if you, like many nondaily and smaller daily newspapers, have finally gotten your website paywelled, but undercut it by posting updates about breaking news stories on a regular basis to your free Facebook site, don't be surprised if a lot of people don't sign up for online newspaper subscriptions. Why should they? I wouldn't. Twitter's not quite so bad, if you keep your updates generic and link to a continually-developing version of the story on your website, behind your paywall.

The same holds true for blogging, to some degree. If you're a smaller daily, and your website isn't set up to do an internal, paywalled blog, don't set up a linked, free Blogger or Wordpress blog. More below the fold:

Second, if you don't have a paywalled website, Facebook isn't offering you its comment moderation services on your website out of the goodness of its heart. Rather, it's looking to:
1. Increase its demographic information about its members by seeing what they're reading, and targeting ads that way;
2. Increase its information about what ads on your website may interest them, and targeting its ads that way.

Third, Facebook appeals as much to the casual glancer as the in-depth reader. It may send a few more eyeballs to your website, but, whether that website has any sort of paywall or not, they're not likely to be very "sticky" eyeballs. Which means they won't help your online ad numbers. (If they don't have anad-blocking extension in place to keep from seeing them, anyway, but that's a subject for part of another blog post.)

Fourth, whom are you really chasing? 150 million Facebook users in the U.S., with probably little non-proprietary information on how many are "active." Well, I'm going to guess about 16-17 percent visit at least once a day. That means about 10 percent of the U.S. population on Facebook age 17 and above is there once a day. So, you're not chasing all that many eyeballs, whether they're sticky or not. At least half of them already knew about your website without Facebook or Twitter, I don't doubt.

FB isn't salvation for non-social new media, either. Look at the number of semi-specialized bloggers who make bupkis off their web ads, even if they have FB presences, and so resort to regular PBS-like donation campaigns. The reason such bloggers, or many newspapers, don't do paywalls?

And, FB or not, "add ons" on an unpaywalled website, like slideshows of the end of a college semester, aren't likely to boost the bottom line much either.

Fear of loss of influence. I'll tackle that more later, in light of things like the NYT fake paywall.

Oh, and add to this a news editor and assistant news editor who spell "south-southwest" as "south, southwest." Among other things.

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