Why you should read about paywalls and other news stories of note

The last few weeks have been quiet for serials or other variants of webfiction.

So this will be a combo editorial/rambling blog plus news post with fun links on the bottom.

Why we should pay attention to news on paywalls and digital periodicals

Among the more interesting stories emerging the last two weeks are those about newspapers and magazines trying to sort through how to manage and monetize readership.  Paidcontent.org follows a lot of different content providers and recently posted several articles this month worth reading.

This one from early February pointed out a problem for us who write on the web to consider…. Namely there’s a blind tendency to ignore or not try to understand the motivations and interest level of  your readers arriving at the first page of your site/story.

Currently, the majority of independently-hosted online novels, serials, or webfiction are free to read from start to finish. However, there are a few examples of sites both independently hosted or hosted by communities that force a registration action, i.e., ask you to “log in” or obtain an ID to access content.   I don’t have stats on the retention rates and so I can only speak as a reader and content consumer. I know that in at least half the cases these requests force me to simply leave the site, close the app, or look for another story.

This is what the article pretty much alludes to.  You can’t be certain of the impact of these barriers and the interest/motivations of readers.  Casual ones or those who are lazy (or privacy hounds) will probably walk away unless they truly are searching for that content and have a NEED to see what comes behind a wall. But how can these visitors become excited, invested readers if you put too much content behind a screen? And how do you keep them from sliding to a free site where there is no wall.

The internet caters to those of us who like instant gratification.

Every login, every active action a reader has to take means a subconscious decision must be made as to whether to continue reading.  The painful experiments being conducted by periodicals online should serve as a caution to many folks who try to make content that will reach the widest audience.

If you erect a wall – make sure your reader has a clear desire to cross it.
Another disadvantage  to walls was articulated in a more recent article, “Marco Arment’s digital magazine and the paywall vs. sharing problem.” The article hints at the decreased probability of social discovery when you put content too far behind a wall.
This leads to another effect — namely that you are relying on the strategy of retention/engagement for readership (and monetizing) and losing out on finding readers via random/social discovery.
Lots of other good points, so hope you will go read these articles and then tell me what I also didn’t catch in my reading :p.

E-book/Print book templates: The next stage of publication for your online novel

I’ve been beating my head against a computer for a few weeks. Formatting a serial for an ebook is one thing, but formatting for a print book is another. I know I’m not really ready for a print book in the traditional mold, but I have a deep interest in understanding print on demand services as well as getting a better proof copy than what my local printer can supply.
It was with great interest that I checked out the newly founded book templates site put together by ebook design blogger Joel Friedlander at  http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/.  Those familiar with Createspace, Amazon, and Kindle know that a lot of the upload tools accept Word documents.  This site’s templates are one possible way to have better looking results without needing a designer (which many of  us could not afford as independents). I have not test driven one of the templates (as I have to use a different print size) but can appreciate the usefulness of what he has up so far.

Interest: Paizo/Magic the Gathering/ “web fiction”

Forbes sat down this week with some folks from Paizo — and after a bit of checking, realized these guys have been writing web fiction for some time. Check out their “web fiction” page!

Interest: Cory Doctorow joins Wattpad

I didn’t see him announce this. Rather he just showed up on site one day and posted his books. I only realized this because other folks I watch on Wattpad started commenting on his books.

Pretty cool, IMHO. I’m now finally reading his books online!

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3 comments

  1. This is why I think traditional retail (like Amazon) is better than a pay wall. Sure, people have to sign in to Amazon but they already have their account set up.The best model, imho, is to have free and easy access on a blog, and anything you want paid for is a quick link through a retailer.

  2. I think Amazon is also no-risk for a reader. You can return a book you hate 🙂 . It's not a paywall in that sense. You can always run in the other direction if you really want to. But site paywalls aren't the same. You paid your toll and you can't get it back :(. And if you really overdo it, people who don't feel they're getting their value form opinions. Anything "pay to play" is dangerous if the "play" is not valued by the consumer. I've seen people complain about content creators being greedy.I'm not sure the free blog is the very best method, but I definitely think that the probability of discovery can be higher , assuming the author does what they can to improve their social connectivity. That said – if the magazine and newspapers eventually are able to make the wall stick (doubtful as long as free alternatives exist), the paywall might be viable.In general though= I gamble on the side of free and lazy winning.

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