Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 15, 2012, 1:27 p.m.
Business Models
Adweek screen shot

Google: Adweek’s “share wall” is a bug, not a feature

Oops: An Adweek article was not supposed to force users to share it through social media before they could read it, Google says.

Adweek screen shot

Scott Kidder, director of editorial operations at Gawker Media, tweeted his indignation this morning when he found himself forced to share an Adweek article via Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ if he wanted to read beyond the opening few paragraphs. (The rest of the story was blocked by grey boxes, as you see above.)

He posted a screen shot of the offending prompt and the Tumblr community had its say: “god, this reeks of desperation,” opined jenawithonen. “if you can’t get people to read your articles, write better articles.” The outrage! Combined with the recent blowback against frictionless sharing and Facebook social readers — which put a somewhat similar must-share wall between the reader and the content — it seemed like a new way that media companies were trying to forcibly convert their audiences into promotional devices.

Actually, it was probably an error.

Adweek employs Google’s Consumer Surveys program (an experiment we first reported on last November), a sort of paywall substitute. Adweek embeds Google’s mini surveys in articles; Google pays Adweek for each completed survey. Adweek opts to provide survey alternatives, such as sharing the article on social media. (Max irony: You can see the “survey wall” in action by reading Adweek’s own article about it.)

In this case, the survey question didn’t fire — leaving only the alternative, sharing the article. (We looked at several dozen Adweek articles and couldn’t replicate the must-share interface. Each time, sharing was one option for access, along with a survey.)

A Google spokesperson provided this statement:

Generally, Google Consumer Surveys are designed to show a market research question along with an alternate, publisher defined action, such as signing in or sharing a piece of content. Along with the surveys, we also offer a number of controls to prevent abuse of the system. Unfortunately, in rare cases, as a result of these controls, a prompt runs without a survey question included. This is not the intended behavior and we are currently working on a fix.

So Kidder’s negative experience seems to have been the result of a bug, not a feature, with Adweek playing the role of unwitting host. (I reached out to Adweek for comment but haven’t heard back yet.)

Even if it turned out to be an error, the reaction from readers is instructive (see the responses on Kidder’s Tumblr post). There are creative ways to monetize online content, but tipping the scales into user-hostile territory risks a damaging backlash.

Update: Google now says it has pushed code to fix the problem.

POSTED     May 15, 2012, 1:27 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Business Models
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations
The news site that uses academics as reporters and journalists as editors now boasts 19 paying member universities and is opening up posts in Atlanta (and maybe in the Bay Area).
A Boston public radio station is redesigning its site to make audio “a first-class citizen online”
But: “I’ve tried to be really disciplined about not calling this process just a redesign,” WBUR’s executive editor for digital Tiffany Campbell said. “We’ve built a brand new platform.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Out of many, NPR One: The app that wants to be the “Netflix of listening” gets more local
A big update moves NPR One yet another step in the direction of becoming a one-stop shop for all audio content, from local newscasts to podcasts outside the NPR world.
0Need to find, keep, and maximize talent today? Look to an old-school example, Gene Roberts
“Virtually every hire should be part of a long-range master plan of journalistic excellence.”
0The New York Times and WBUR are bringing ‘Modern Love’ essays to life with sounds and celebrity reads
“We’re trying to touch people just through sound, in a really profound way.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
American Independent News Network
The Sunlight Foundation
Tribune Publishing
The New Republic
Chi-Town Daily News
Groupon
Kaiser Health News
The New Yorker
Hacks/Hackers
Gotham Gazette
El País
Los Angeles Times