Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Should it stay or should it go: News outlets scramble to cover Britain’s decision to exit the European Union
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.
Should it stay or should it go: News outlets scramble to cover Britain’s decision to exit the European Union
Online, readers stayed up for the results: Peak traffic to BBC News, for instance, was around 4 a.m. GMT, and by 11 a.m. BBC.com had received 88 million page views.
Acast wants to get new audiences “in the podcast door” with more diverse shows and better data
With a new paid subscription option and its sights set on non English-speaking countries, the Swedish podcasting startup is looking for listeners (and shows) beyond the iTunes set.
“Medium’s team did everything”: How 5 publishers transitioned their sites to Medium
What happened when Pacific Standard, The Ringer, The Awl, The Bold Italic, and Femsplain moved their sites over to Medium.
What to read next
0What does it take to be a “full-service” digital journalism organization? Ask Discourse Media
“We’ve gone down lots of experimental rabbit holes.”
0Hot Pod: New podcasts, more existential public radio talk, and progress on intern wages
Plus: New big-picture views from Pew, Malcolm Gladwell hits the promo circuit, and more growth in branded podcasts.
0Hot Pod: Is the Stitcher deal a step toward a closed podcast ecosystem?
Plus: Midroll’s CEO steps down, Malcolm Gladwell goes audio, and how voice assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana) could impact NPR’s drive time programs.
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 ➚
Suck.com
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Voice of San Diego
Baristanet
The Batavian
Daily Kos
Al Jazeera
Apple
Salon
Fox News
The Awl
Windy Citizen