Day Four Behind The SFChronicle Paywall: “Why Not Monetize Your Trolls?”

These posts slogging through the Chronicle paywall are starting to take on the doomed air of Heart of Darkness, aren’t they? I feel like at the end of this week, you’ll find me gnawing on rat bones, sporting a lush beard with twigs in it, and only communicating in grunts. Oh, and wearing a Flintstones-style toga. The horror, the horror.

So! While I still retain the power of grammatical speech, I am happy to report that today, I read a number of articles on and they were timely and thought-provoking.

Maybe I wouldn’t have entitled one of them “homeless people will die off soon,” but we can quibble about style some other time. This is more in line with what I was expecting from the paywall — click on something, grumble about having to put in a password, and then suck it up and buy the digital subscription. Fine! This is a business arrangement I understand.

Previously: My First Day With The New Online Chron

One thing that strikes me in reading the paywalled site is the refreshing lack of comment trollery. It might be worth $12/month just to be able to read an article without seeing a string of “This comment has been removed by an SFGate administrator” posts immediately below it. always had amazingly high traffic numbers, which I have always wondered might be in part because of the comment wars that are always breaking out on the site. I bring this up because I wonder if that might be the explanation for this weird double website plan that the Chron has implemented — they can’t paywall the entire because they need the high level web traffic to report to advertisers, but they can’t continue to give away the content for free because they need the cash. So thus, this clunky strategy of running two websites, one for the pageviews and one for the money.

Why not monetize your trolls, though? When the paywall was announced, pretty much everyone I know made the joke that they should just charge $12/month to comment, and that would resolve all the Chron’s money issues. Ha ha, but… why not?

Previously: Day Two Behind The SFChronicle.Com Paywall

The Gate has basically created a social media network in connection with the news, in a way that not very many other mainstream media organizations have done. Google Plus is killing itself trying to create something similar to what the Gate already has.

So why not spin off the commentary and the trolls into some kind of cash-positive way? Charge a monthly fee for comments, or for reading comments. Set them up with their own system and sell ads on it. Collect demographic data about them and sell it to advertisers! Then you could use the money generated by the troll social network to cover the costs of offering the site for free.

Previously: Day Three Behind The SFChronicle Paywall: “Nothing For Something”

Hearst Publishing, you can totally use that idea without crediting me. I will be the Winkelvoss Twin of the SFGate Social Network! All I ask in return is that if you do make tons of money, that the Chron also start a shuttle bus service that blocks bus stops in the Mission.

Tomorrow! Maybe I’ll do some kind of listicle about the paywall site. I love listicles.

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