Adventures in Paywalls: The 'Longshot' Magazine Nagwall

Over the weekend, a group of loony volunteers and writers put out the third issue of Longshot magazine, which is a very attractive product in print particularly and you may buy that right here. (The huge vault of radio programming is also incredible if you like listening to things!) The shtick is that it’s all written and built and published in 48 hours.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about it, if you care about the digital age. So here we are in this wacky new time, after the New York Times debuted their intentionally porous metered paywall, after the Financial Times’ strict subscriber-only paywall, and all the versions in-between, from half-subscriber-only to complete lockdown, and it’s a great question about what to do that’s right. The Longshot web team (led by Adam Hemphill) came up with a fascinating iteration. Their nagwall appears after a good amount of browsing — you can read quite a bit without being harassed. And then it asks you to consider giving one of two different kinds of currency: it wants you to share the site with a friend or to straight-up give money. Equal value!

It also gives you something most paywalls don’t have: a big option to “ignore.” It’ll crop up again, eventually.

And they also built something wonderful, which looks like they’ve commented-out in the code right now, so it’s not happening (you try building an actual magazine website from scratch in 48 hours), but they built it so that, if users clicked through to give money via Paypal, and then didn’t actually follow-through, a friendly message would acknowledge that choice.

The thinking behind this idea seems really sound to me! It’s a direct ask for something people can give. It’s definitely not a demand. It’s good-humored. And it’s a relatively simple interface. I’d love to see what people build on from there.

(And of course, there are things to read on this website. If I had to play favorites in the magazine, it’d be this account of a bill collectors’ fake courtroom. Though there’s a wonderful Paul Ford piece and this story by Mike Barthel about being an accounts payable manager is great, and I loved this piece on our aging water contracts in the West and, OH, here is one really remarkable thing, a small collection of emails received by a “small independent magazine” about paying writers. But, of course, print is a different experience — for instance, there’s a hilarious Dan Kois thing that is magazine-only!)