In the film, The Social Network, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is determined to keep the social networking site “cool”. And arguably one of the reasons that Facebook was so “cool” and successful was its perceived exclusivity. First it was only for people at Harvard, then only people at certain American universities and then only at university. Exclusivity was its appeal – at least at the start.
So is the Times Online on to a good thing with its pay wall? There is no quicker way of making something exclusive than making people pay to get in. Times Online is now an exclusive online community – and if the pay wall experiment succeeds that will be why.
Exclusivity brings with it the suggestion of quality. Times Online is the grammar school of websites, weeding out the riff raff with the equivalent of an entrance exam. Fewer trolls, fewer mindless vindictive comments on opinion pieces, more intelligent discussion.
Or will it just be a richer breed of troll? Because of course the pay wall is not like an entrance exam, you just have to pay your way in – like the worst kind of private school.
So which is the way forward do you think? The all-encompassing, trolls and all approach, as seen in the Guardian’s community, or the VIP area of Times Online?