As the news industry continues its move online, publishers have struggled to figure out how best to monetize their online traffic.

A year ago, the New York Times launched an innovative pay wall system that allows visitors to read 10 articles a month for free.  If you want more, you will have to pay between $15-$25 per month for a digital subscription.  The tactic has worked, as last week the Times announced that over half a million people now pay for digital editions of the paper. 

In this period of experimentation, it makes sense that publishers are starting to more aggressively integrate with social networks.  Over the last few months I’ve seen more and more publishers experiment with what I call “share walls”.  Share walls are prompts visitors get to like or share content on social networks as they are reading content. 

Sites such as the gossip network Wetpaint ask users to “like” their site on Facebook prior to reading content.  Below is a screenshot of the wall in action. 


This is basically an updated version of the registration requirement that so many newspaper websites have used for year.  Instead of forcing users to fill out a form requiring name, zip code and email, they are asking users to  “like” them on Facebook.  I would expect for this to become a common practice moving forward.

Other publishers are encouraging the sharing of individual content.  Instead of asking users to “like” their site on Facebook, they ask users to like the individual piece of content they are reading on social networks.  So as you are reading an article, a little prompt will pop up asking you to like the article you are reading on Facebook.  ESPN has been experimenting with this technique the last few months.  ESPN seems to have stopped using the technique for the time being, as when I went back to get a screengrab I couldn’t get the prompt to pop up.  I’ll update this post next time I see this technique in use.

Both of these tactics strike me as smart moves by publishers.  Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are responsible for an increasing percentage of referral traffic.  Given this growth it only makes sense for publishers to get more aggressive about building their social networking presences and making sure their content gets shared.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.