The paywall debate is an important one but let’s go under the hood and look at the real question large media companies such as Fairfax, Facebook and News Ltd need to be asking themselves. How will content shifting impact on my advertising revenues?
Paywall and display advertising work fine when the audience gathers around the main dot com site to view the stories.
What happens when the content is moved to aggregators such as Storify?
The partnership announced yesterday at Le Web between Google + and Flipboard demonstrates that Google is trying to get out in front of these changes and develop aggregation functionality inside their products for inevitable content shifting.
If readers aggregate RSS feeds for tablet or mobile device, obviously the complexity of the ad products will be lost.
Digital advertising products that command the most money such as pre-rolls, skyscrapers or page buyouts are lost on third party aggregators . So either the aggregator takes over the advertising and you syndicate content to them, or you create a walled garden (paywall) and stop content sharing.
Arguably, the death of the first generation Myspace was its 'walled garden' model. Facebook learned from MySpace’s errors and have taken brave steps to make content on their site shareable. Facebook are still figuring out how to adserve mobile or third party aggregators in a measurable way and so the quest continues.
Paywalls are part of the solution but don’t truly reflect multi-device media consumption.