Paywalls: something fresh is on the air (write this: shareable paygate)

A fresh concept is evolving around the paywalls. In the last few days journalists are talking about how bad is the practice of penalize the most loyal readers.

As Jeff Jarvis pointed out in Why not a reverse meter?, “media are valuing our readers/users/customers opposite how we should, rewarding the freeriders and taxing — and perhaps turning away — the valuable users“.

Paywall was some sort of dubious “innovation” one year ago and still is controversial. It is faulty, to say the least. Reversing it seems a good idea, but how? It can be more difficult than it seems. There are no good, practicable answers yet. “So never mind the idea of the reverse meter, but retain the lesson of it: Value should be encouraged, not taxed” (Jarvis again, my bold).

At GigaOM Mathew Ingram titled: Don’t penalize loyal users with paywalls, reward them. In the article, Ingram exposes the ideas of Raju Narisetti, Washington Post managing editor, who talks about a “positive meter” and said in a presentation: “Don’t penalize engaged readers of websites with a pay wall: reward your active users“. (Slides at the end, thanks to Narisetti and Ingram.)

Ingram ends with this pertinent interrogation: “The fact that anyone actually pays those monthly fees is a tribute to the brand loyalty that readers have developed to places like the New York Times. So why not try to come up with ways of turning that loyalty into a benefit instead of a penalty?

So, something fresh is on the air. On Twitter, @SaDuros was interested on the subject, just like me (example tweet). I mentioned a good way of valuing loyalty of best kind — that from paying subscribers. Thomas Baekal was a model. He calls it a paygate. The basics: the subscriber can share with his/her network the full article he paid for.

Baekal wrote about it more than a year ago. As a matter of fact that article convinced me to subscribe his Plus section. The subscription gives me the privilege to share it with you, full text: Forget The Paywalls Build Shareable Paygates.

Almost one year living with The New York Times porous paywall, I think journalism industry is ready to the paywall 2.0: discovering ways to reward the paying readers. Rewarding best commenters with some sort of clout or karma (or a simple points system) is elementary. Shareable paygates are interesting and promising. Between the two, there is a new territory to explore.