The Times and Sunday Times, the papers that led the pro-paywall charge in the UK, are about to lift a few of their upper most bricks and let social media peak through their virtual partitions.
Speaking at the Digital Content Monetisation Europe conference this week Nick Bell, News International digital product director, told Paid Content:
“Sharing, within the Wapping headquarters, has been a hotly-debated topic…Over the next six months, you will see us rewarding our paying subscribers with the ability to share amongst their network. That’s going to be an interesting piece for us. If they want to share content with their direct friends, then we’re going to enable that.”
Interesting is a darn good word for it. Back when the paywall first went up, I had a few thoughts on the future value of The Times for PRs. Most significantly, was there still value in running an exclusive with The Times compared with say The Telegraph or even the slightly-less-restricted FT. The erection of a paywall locks an exclusive story behind The Times’ wall and seriously limits potential online spread.
The idea of sharing articles on social media changes that. In fact, there’s an argument it increases the value of an exclusive, as the supposedly more engaged paying readership are more likely to read and share an article.
That value does, to a degree, rely on sharing options being free – which is not a forgone conclusion as yet. Bell also told the conference:
“They [readers] want to have a level playing field – if they are paying for content, then other people are also paying for content…Where we do want to add value and we see an opportunity is allowing people to share content with their friends. How we do that is yet to be finalised, but we do think there is value if they can share content with their friends and family.”
So there’s definitely value in it, which means there could be value for PRs. Once they sort out the CPT (cost per Tweet).