Please answer a personal question before reading this post
Instead of a having a paywall, some online publications are asking readers to answer a marketing question. Can this possibly be annoying? Can this possibly be Google behind it all?
I'd like to discuss a new trend in online marketing that will make you exceptionally wealthy and be in a position to buy Facebook with your own personal funds.
But first could you answer this question: When you are in the bath, do you a) read a book about fangless vampires? b) smoke substances of an illegal nature and then get annoyed when a little hot detritus falls onto your naked chest? Or c) plot how you will murder your boss without anyone noticing?
I am, you see, homing in (as I so often do) on the latest marketing trend in online journalism. This consists of demanding that readers answer some marketing questions before being able to peruse the whole of your article.
I encountered this interesting and delightful phenomenon in Adweek when I was trying to read about something vital. An ad, I think.
As I got beyond the first couple of lines, I was confronted with a box that asked a question: "For a feature enabling my car to drive itself but with my hands on the wheel, I would pay..." What followed were varying amounts from $0 to more than $15,000.
If I didn't answer the question, I would not be allowed to read the rest of the article. If I refused to answer, there was the option of choosing another question. I tried that option. It read: "Which social networks do you genuinely make use of?"
I began to feel a little strange. So I spoke to James Cooper, Adweek's executive editor. He told me that this was an attempt to generate revenue in conjunction with Google. Adweek would prefer not to have a paywall, so it is experimenting with other ways to monetize its content.
"We feel it's not as intrusive as pre-roll," Cooper told me. Adweek is splitting the revenue with Google and Cooper said that there haven't been huge complaints from readers, though some have asked whether the site is broken.
Cooper explained that Adweek had insisted that all the questions be marketing-related. So I asked who decided what they would actually be. Ah, Google, it seems.
So I tried clicking on a few of these questions. A little pattern began to emerge. These were all questions about Google's business. There was: "Are you planning on buying a mobile phone in the next six months?" Then: "Which social network apps do you genuinely make use of the most?"
So I'd been confronted with questions about self-driving cars, cell phones, and social networks. How oddly self-centered of Google.
However, then I received the deep doozy: "Have you used Facebook.com in the past few months?"
Darn it, those Googlies are so frustrated that they can't get into all your Facebook activity that they're going to ambush you with questions about it or stop you from reading articles. How very commercial.
Cooper told me that Adweek's experiment will go on for two to three months. I wonder whether readers will tire of answering questions or whether they'll begin to see amusing patterns, as the questions become ever more personal.
Well, this is Google, after all.