The New Yorker Tries Requiring Users to Like Its Facebook Page to Access Articles

The New Yorker magazine has made one of its articles available only to those who have Liked its Facebook Page. The test of a Like-gate for text-based content is a break from more popular distribution methods such as making articles free online, freemium (charging for only some content), and paywalls that require a paid subscription.

If Like-gating of certain articles successfully draws Likes and generates increased Facebook referral traffic for the publication’s website, other text-based content providers might consider adopting the model as well. The New Yorker’s Page, which reportedly had 200,000 fans earlier this morning, has already acquired 4,000 more Likes.

The article “Farther Away” by Pulitzer Prize-finalist Jonathan Franzen will be available to fans of The New Yorker’s Facebook Page for one week. Otherwise it can only be accessed with a paid digital subscription to the magazine’s website, and presumably in its print edition. The “Fans Only” Page tab app hosting the article also includes a Facebook Comments Box social plugin through which users can publish links to the article to their news feeds, drawing additional users to the promotion.

Facebook began formally allowing applications and Pages to gate content behind Likes in late 2009. Since then, Like-gates have proven useful for some popular musicians as a way to exchange their songs or music videos in exchange for Likes.

However, the model requires strong user demand for the content, otherwise user won’t be willing to sign up for future news feed updates to access it. Content providers with weak brands, or those who Like-gate less compelling content may see users refuse the value exchange.

The New Yorker has built a strong brand around Sunday read-style long form text content, and is therefore a good candidate for the program. Franzen also has his own following that might be willing to Like the Page rather than pay to access his work. The New Yorker’s Page has a relatively low fan count compared to its general popularity, increasing its need for Like-driving campaigns, and indicating there may be many Facebook users with an interest in the publication who have yet to Like its Page.

Since Pages hosting Like-gated content can only distribute links to those who’ve already Liked them, these types of promotions need to be paired with a method of drawing non-fans. Many brands use Facebook ads pointing to their Like-gated content, but The New Yorker has wisely chosen Facebook’s Comments Box and Recommend button.

When users scroll to the bottom of the Franzen article, they can choose to leave a comment for other readers to see, but a checkbox defaults those comments to be published to the user’s stream. This leads their friends back to The New Yorker’s Fans Only tab where they too might decide to Like the Page and share their comments. A Recommend button also allows users to distribute the article without adding a comment. By using these two social plugins, The New Yorker can drive non-fan traffic to the app without paying for advertising.

This combination of free Facebook promotional mechanisms is a savvy move for The New Yorker. It strikes a balance between giving content away and making users pay, focusing on a long-term strategy of gaining Facebook fans to which the magazine can distribute its links and potentially convert into paying subscribers later.

As internet users have grown accustomed to accessing content for free, they may be more willing to provide publishers a way to contact them rather than paying with dollars, as with Google’s One Pass and The New York Times paywall. Media publishers should closely watch The New Yorker’s fan count and consider whether they have the right brand and content to try Like-gating.

For more information on how media websites and Pages can integrate Facebook’s social plugins to increase referral traffic and drive Likes, visit the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s Inside Network’s complete guide to marketing using Facebook.