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Esquire trials micro paywall to raise money for topical causes

Publishing & Media

Esquire magazine has created a one-off paywall for its acclaimed The Falling Man essay, with proceeds going towards a scholarship fund to commemorate murdered photojournalist James Foley.

It's hard for charities and nonprofits to drum up interest in their cause without making it relevant to the right now — whether that's creating a viral trend à la the Ice Bucket Challenge, or simply tapping into existing current events. In the past, platforms such as ShoutAbout have attempted to give readers actions they can take after reading a news article, such as signing a petition, volunteering or donating. Now Esquire magazine has created a one-off paywall for its acclaimed The Falling Man, with proceeds going towards a scholarship fund to commemorate murdered photojournalist James Foley.

In August, the Islamic State (ISIS) brutally beheaded Foley as well as fellow journalist Steven Sotloff weeks later. Shortly after, Foley's family and Marquette University set up the James Foley Scholarship Fund to help support future journalists at the university's College of Communication.

A huge blow to the journalism community, Esquire wanted to help the initiative. With the 13th anniversary of 9/11 upcoming following the events, the magazine decided to leverage the influx of visitors each year that look to read Tom Junod's article The Falling Man, about the famous photograph of an unknown man leaping from the World Trade Center. Originally published in September 2003, the essay has been read by 20 million people already and is particularly popular around the anniversary of the attacks. The story focuses on the power of the visual documentation of horrific events and has parallels to Foley's death, which was filmed and the video placed on YouTube.

Teaming up with Tinypass and Atavist, Esquire set up a micro paywall for the single article, asking readers to donate USD 2.99 to read it. In comparison, a full paper copy of the magazine is priced at USD 4.99. The publication wanted to trial readers' responses to paying for a one-off article, while also raising money for a good cause.

The initiative connects readers' emotional response to current events with a way to help out causes directly related to the story. Are there other ways that nonprofits or publishers could marry content and fundraising in this way?

Website: www.esquire.com/the-falling-man

Contact: www.esquire.com/talk

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