Social Reader Apps: Better Than Paywalls, But Still Walls

from the just-let-us-in-the-damn-garden dept

If you’re a Facebook user, by now you’ve probably run into the “Social Reader App” walls that some websites have put in between you and their content. It’s easy to see why the content providers might want you to use these apps, and clearly some people are using them happily, but most of the time they are just frustrating. I’ve yet to see one that provides a clear and obvious link to bypass the app and view the content—though some do slip it in at the bottom or say something counterintuitive like “press cancel to continue to the website”. It’s a classic example of trying to get more out of your users without offering them anything in return.

Joseph Kranak points us to a segment of The Oatmeal’s awesome State of the Web, Spring 2012 Edition which, as usual, nicely skewers the whole situation (click for big version):

Be sure to check out the rest of the State of the Web, which includes an ode to Kickstarter and some suggestions for a Valve/Apple gaming console.

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Comments on “Social Reader Apps: Better Than Paywalls, But Still Walls”

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Eponymous Coward (profile) says:

Only the tip of the iceberg

In the past week, I’ve seen an explosion of these social reader/viewer apps. Viddy, Dailymotion, Yahoo, etc, etc. The real fun comes when someone approves use of the dailymotion social app and then fails to log off before viewing some sketchy vids.

“Bill Swenson watched ‘7 sexual positions for less-endowed men’, as well as 8 other videos on Dailymotion.”

The comments on that type of post are priceless.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

AdBlocker has this wonderful tool compliment: ElementBlocker. By using this, I can pretty much kill these modal popups and allow the page to continue as normal.

I thank the coders behind these tools every day, who make our internet experience enjoyable because others want to make it frustrating.

Ads and content are the same, huh. Yep, this is why people constantly complain against this “content”. 😉

As I said: it’s only content if people don’t see it as an ad. 😐

Call me Al says:

Only the tip of the iceberg

I saw one of those too. I commented on it, it got a few laughs and then magically disappeared once the guy realised what he had done.

I’ve signed up for a bunch of these apps because friends are using them. Trouble is that I always make the privacy settings so that only I can see what is published to my wall, so that I can avoid publishing things like the above ;-). Effectively negating any social value of my browsing. Of course if I see something I actually find interesting and want to share then I use the address rather than the app.

All in all its just annoying.

Yogi says:


One of these popped up the other day and I had no idea what it was – I was sure it was virus or hijacking ploy so I closed the window as quickly as possible. But now that I understand that these are “social apps” I still won’t bother, and I wont even google that stuff. If you want me to read it – just provide a working link – that’s what the internet used to be for…

drew (profile) says:

skip straight past

The first couple of times I clicked on the links and realised it wanted to download an app. Now I just skip straight past the update.
Some of them will access not just your details but your friends details. Now I’m comfortable with everything I put up on the web, but I’m pretty certain that none of my friends have given me permission to go spreading their details around like this, so any app that works in this way gets two fingers from me.

bob (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

Actually, I find them as annoying as everyone here. I would much rather just give the publications some money, but everyone around here keeps insisting that this is somehow bad and rotten. So the publishers keep concocting other insane ways to “monetize their eyeballs”.

If the cheapskates who keep insisting on getting everything for free would just give up on changing the laws of economics, we could have nice, simple web pages with just the facts and none of the squawking video ads and the weirdo Flash animations. The sites could earn enough money for health care and food by monetizing their content the old fashioned way: they would charge for it.

But does anyone around here listen to me…. You brought these dumb apps on yourself.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

insane ways to “monetize their eyeballs”

What a delightfully reductive synonym for “advertising” (hint: not a strange or alien concept)

If the cheapskates who keep insisting on getting everything for free would just give up on changing the laws of economics

You know I remember, as a kid, turning the plastic dial beside the TV to point at the grubby little sticker with the channel I wanted jotted on it, and listening for the hum of the motor and the creak of metal as the antenna outside rotated, and sometimes nudging the sticky dial back and forth for ten minutes then eventually settling for imperfect reception, and I remember the winter when someone would have to climb up the antenna tower and chip the ice away so it could turn…

And amidst all those details, I don’t remember ever having to put a coin in a slot.

bob (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

You just weren’t paying attention. You put the money in the slot at the movie theater. Or your school paid to rent prints of movies. Or your church paid to rent the film to show on Friday night to the kids. Your parents paid.

And the free TV advertising model was just as annoying then as these readers. The number of ads kept increasing. They usually turned up the volume for the ads while denying that they did it. The stations would show their ads at the same time to prevent you from switching. In many ways, the new readers are even nicer than the old TV ad realm.

Advertising only supports mass market content and good paywalls usually beat it down. Witness how many folks celebrate HBO now.

Heck, pay cable tv is getting to be 70 years old in some parts of the country. Free didn’t last long, did it?

drew (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

That’s right Bob, because we’re all a bunch of freeloaders who never pay for anything.
Perhaps if the publishers had figured out a few ways to keep some relevance people would be willing to pay for it, but in their rush to the bottom even the broadsheets are just re-hashing agency feed that I can get direct from Reuters.
There are still plenty of opportunities for these companies to add value into the chain (and therefore earn something for that value) but if all they’re doing is aggregating news feeds and providing politically-biased opinion then they’re not providing a service I’m willing to pay for.
Hence I don’t sign up to their apps or read their content.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

Wait a minute. First you said everyone should stop expecting companies to find other ways to monetize and should just pay directly for content – and now you’re lecturing me on how I paid for free tv in other ways?

You really can’t keep your story straight, huh? Which is it bob – is it normal to offer free content and make money in other ways, as you just said, or is it some craaaazy new change to the “laws of economics” like you said before that?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Where's Bob?

You really can’t keep your story straight, huh? Which is it bob – is it normal to offer free content and make money in other ways, as you just said, or is it some craaaazy new change to the “laws of economics” like you said before that?

Don’t mind bob. He’s refused to contribute to the paywall for “logic” and thus has been blocked from using that part of his brain.

Ninja (profile) says:

Only the tip of the iceberg

I run my social media on a separate browser (ah the wonders of a healthy competition). So Chrome goes for social stuff and FireFox for all the rest. I use the incognito features too as well as the Do Not Follow and a few add-ons to prevent such things from happening. If u think about it, social networks are a damn hassle so it’s no surprise I barely ever use my personal Facebook. Instead, I’m usually 100% online with my pseudonyms.

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