Why it’s hard for The Times to leverage social media behind a paywall

Two moves at The Times and Sunday Times — the closure of the Times Opinion Tumblr and the introduction of a retweeting tool — prompted me to write something for Press Gazette about how social media does and doesn’t work behind a paywall.

Here’s the crux of the piece:

Back in the mid/late 2000s search engines drove most people to The Times, accounting for up to 70 per cent of the traffic at one time, according to one senior editorial executive. That was pre-paywall and that was before social began to offer a serious alternative source of high volume traffic.

News International concluded that it couldn’t turn those passing eyeballs into a viable commercial model – and the majority of newspaper groups either side of the Atlantic have come to a similar conclusion.

But a subscription model doesn’t negate the need to create buzz around your journalism. After all, it’s the quality of that journalism that you are selling and to do that effectively you have to show some leg, you have to give non-subscribers a taste of what they are missing, you have to give some of it away for free.

You need to use social media effectively to spread the word. That means no matter how many staffers retweet a cracking page one splash, the link needs to lead somewhere that’s not “sign up here”.

You can read The Times, paywalls and social media here.

 

Mastering social media: a reader

Hardly an exhaustive list but some useful sources, background and inspiration below:

 

Statistics
How many people use top social media, apps and services?

The 7 most interesting social media studies and what to learn from them

By The Numbers: 25 Amazing Facebook Stats

By The Numbers: A Few Amazing Twitter Stats

 

Demographics
A demographic portrait of Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook users

Who uses which social network. US-based demographics

 

Searching and monitoring social media
Searching social media? Don’t miss what’s hiding in plain sight

 

Developing a social media policy
Social media: copyright and fair dealing

 

How to use Twitter
Twitter for the Newsroom

What use is Twitter?

Channel 4 News’s Faisal Islam’s top tips for digital journalists

 

How to use Google+
Eight Google+ tools for journalists

 

How to use Facebook
Best Practices for Journalists on Facebook

INFOGRAPHIC: How Facebook’s Graph Search Will Change Digital Marketing

 

How to use Pinterest
10 Innovative Uses of Pinterest

 

How to use LinkedIn
Top tips for journalists

Top 10 tips from 10 best LinkedIn Company pages 2012

 

How to use Tumblr
So who in news knows how to use Tumblr?

 

Blogging
Ten years on, how to make the most out of Facebook

How to write a successful blog that also promotes your business

 

How to use Tumblr

Tumblr is a blogging platform but it isn’t WordPress. If that feels like a distinction so minor that it’s not worth making, I do think the differences between the two platforms, however small, do matter.

Tumblr tends to be more visual, more instant; less of the analysis, more of the bite-sized. Of course all these rules are there to be broken but those truths about the platform most likely explain why lots of people (and by people I mean newspapers, magazines, broadcasters etc) are struggling to work out how to use it.

As a counterpoint, here are four traditional media outlets that are using it well:

  1. Financial Times
  2. The Economist
  3. The Times
  4. New Statesman

In my Press Gazette column this week I explain why they have mastered Tumblr.