Will a new way to monetize journalism work?

A new online journalism model lets readers read for free as long as they share content.

Media companies want their content to go viral and they want to make money, but they aren't making content easily accessible. In the United States that means many newspapers, from small-town papers to the New York Times, have been turning to paywalls to bring in revenue. The problem is that blocking access to content can lead to stagnant readership. So far there haven't been many great solutions to this problem of media companies growing revenue and offering free content. But Won Hee Chang, a Korean tech entrepreneur, thinks she might have a solution.

As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Chang is reviving a literary magazine, Sasangge, that ceased publication in 1970. Here's how her new model works:

Content, available in English, will initially be free. When readers log on to the site for the first time, they’ll receive a certain number of points—Chang calls them “karma points”—which will slowly be depleted as they click through articles. To restock on points and maintain access, they will have to share the site’s stories through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit like multilevel marketing—the more readers spread articles, the greater their access. Those who bristle at being asked to share content can buy points; five points will cost 99¢.

It's a fascinating experiment. In theory it's a win-win for the magazine and readers. The magazine gets widely shared content in exchange for free content for users. Or it gets paid by non-sharing readers. Plus, viral content doesn't hurt advertising revenue. Could this be the model for growth online journalism has been looking for? We'll soon find out. The magazine is set to launch later this month.

Would You Tweet This Article if It Earned You Points? [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Image: Flickr/christoph.ch

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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