The New Yorker uses a ‘like-gate’ to find fans of long-form journalism on Facebook

The New Yorker is experimenting with Facebook this week, making a 12,000-word piece by Jonathan Franzen free behind a “like-gate” for a limited time.

When users “Like” the magazine’s Facebook page, they’re given access to the “Fans Only” section. This week, that includes the full text of Franzen’s story “Farther Away.” It’s also available for subscribers on The New Yorker’s website.

The New Yorker Facebook
The New Yorker this week put a Jonathan Franzen essay on Facebook for free, but behind a “like-gate.”

In a phone conversation, spokeswoman Alexa Cassanos told me that the Franzen story was chosen because it represents the type of writing The New Yorker is known for. It is therefore likely to attract readers who will be interested in the magazine long-term.

“We would much rather have a few thousand fans who really enjoy the content and stick with it,” Cassanos said, rather than 10,000 with a more casual interest.

The New Yorker has traditionally kept most of its digital content behind a paywall. Some features are presented for free, such as an essay this week by Evan Osnos about Chinese tourists in Europe. (That story is also promoted on The New Yorker’s Facebook page.)

Those featured stories remain available on the Web in perpetuity. However, stories posted on Facebook, like Franzen’s, will be available for a limited time — one week in this case.

Cassanos said she is interested to see how many people “Like” the magazine’s page this week. The magazine has 200,000 Facebook fans and one million subscribers already. By noon on Monday, it had attracted about 1,600 additional fans.

Although Cassanos told Mashable that the magazine “wants to engage with people,” she told me that the aim is simply to find fans of long-form journalism. The New Yorker is not planning more interactive efforts as part of the initiative, though the staff does respond to comments on Facebook and regularly hosts chats on its website.

The Facebook post is also being heavily promoted from NewYorker.com. The goal is to inform current subscribers of the publication’s Facebook page and to let non-subscribers know about the story’s limited-time availability on Facebook.

Like-gating has become a popular marketing technique on Facebook this year. Organizations ranging from national magazines to local TV stations to professional sports teams have used it. Once a user “Likes” a page, the page owner can publish stories to his news feed and send him messages.

According to Cassanos, The New Yorker has no specific plans to put content on Facebook regularly, though the success of this week’s effort will play a part in that decision. Each week the staff decides what content to place outside of the paywall. If the Facebook test works, they will look at trying other stories in the future.

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