The Economist Brings Back Its Paywall... Perhaps It Should Hire An Economist

from the missing-the-point dept

A bunch of folks have sent in the news that the Economist appears to be putting up something of a paywall, locking up all archival content older than 90 days, while also locking up one version of the magazine (the one that is made to look just like the physical paper layout). I have to be honest: I don't see how this makes any sense at all. In our experience, somewhere between 25% to 30% of our daily traffic is to archival content, usually in the form of search engine traffic -- or occasionally other sites picking up on an older story. Archival content is perfect Google fodder, driving traffic (and ad views) to pages that otherwise would get no traffic at all. In many ways, that's a big part of the value of having widespread archives -- to bring in such traffic for those who care about it. The chances of such a "drive by" viewer paying up for a subscription to view that content seems incredibly slim -- and it seems quite likely that the decline in traffic (and ad dollars) would almost certainly outweigh the number of new subscribers added. This doesn't seem to make any sense at all. Does The Economist have any information economists on staff?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 9:34pm

    I just think it's tacky that Mike would post his job application to the Economist online for everyone to see.

     

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    scarr (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 9:44pm

    If they tried it with and without before, I would have to think they have some reason to bring it back. While Mike's argument makes sense, it would be interesting to know the relative numbers ... and how they fare this time around.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 9:55pm

    Research

    I think The Economist is different than Techdirt because The Economist is sometimes referenced in research papers and annotated bibliographies. Some traffic might come from people doing follow-on research, and they might have a budget to cover the cost. Research libraries would also be willing to pay for a subscription to archived issues.

     

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  4.  
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    John Laprise (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 10:52pm

    The Economist is a well-established periodical with an affluent, loyal clientele. In a sense, they are the reverse of NPR. They were one of the first periodicals to raise subscription prices in the face of economic hardship and it worked. Their reporting is also all done by their staff, unlike many newspapers. I agree with the previous poster that without seeing the numbers ( and I'm sure The Economist is looking at the numbers) it is difficult to tell whether this strategy will be effective.

     

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  5.  
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    Doctor Strange, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 11:23pm

    How do you know they have no economist (or, well, business analyst) working for them? Why would you assume that they haven't looked at the ad revenues brought in by their archived content, run focus groups and studies, and determined that they will make more by charging for that content based on their userbase?

    For that matter, how do YOU know you're making more money by not charging for your archived content?

    The Gartner Group, for example, posts openly on their website that their revenue last year was $1.3 Billion. I personally know many companies that pay Gartner rather obscene sums of money for access to their technical reports, which (in my limited review of them) have always seemed sort of unsubstantiated and biased. You've opined that the "analysis" in Gartner's reports is lacking at least twice [1, 2], and that they're mostly a PR tool.

    None of us know the revenues of Floor64 & Techdirt, but I imagine they're less than $1.3 Billion a year. Feel free to correct me here.

    How is this possible, when Gartner offers inferior "analysis" AND sells their information? Are they also fools, who need to start giving away their information tomorrow? If they truly are a PR engine, wouldn't they make substantially MORE money by publicizing their results even more widely instead of locking them up behind a "paywall?" If, by giving all of its superior analysis away, Floor64 has a massive business advantage over Gartner, why is Gartner still making so much damn money?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2009 @ 12:35am

    Don't worry, Doctor Strange. I'm sure someone from Gartner Group is reading Techdirt this very moment and smacking themselves on the forehad: "Good God, why didn't we think of it? Of course, T-shirts are the answer."

    They will realize the folly of their ways. Just a matter of time.

    I only feel sad for the American public, which will soon be deluged by T-shirts!

     

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    Richard (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 2:38am

    Re:

    Floor64 has a massive business advantage over Gartner, why is Gartner still making so much damn money?

    It's like when a cartoon character runs off the edge of a cliff ... they (the Gartner customers) haven't looked down yet!

    Sooner or later they will...

     

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    Ilfar, Oct 8th, 2009 @ 3:22am

    Re:

    Do you have any idea how painful it is to snort PIE out your nose? You are an evil person, with a great sense of humour :P

     

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    SteelWolf (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 4:25am

    Re: Research

    Nice. So, like the Elsevier gang, The Economist wants to hold back any potential research discoveries for the sake of scraping a few dollars from somebody's already tight research budget? Fail.

    Yet another example of the short-sighted "economics" I've come to expect from anybody still trading content on physical media.

     

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    ..., Oct 8th, 2009 @ 5:43am

    Re: Logic Fail

    In summary, Gartner is not a PR tool because they charge for their product.

    Gartner is a PR tool, and apparently so are you.

     

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    Comboman (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    AMZ*Prime

    In our experience, somewhere between 25% to 30% of our daily traffic is to archival content, usually in the form of search engine traffic

    And 90% of those are looking for AMZ*Prime ;-)

     

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    www.eZee.se (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Love the title :))

     

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    Esahc (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    Why does everyone put down t-shirts? I love t-shirts. I would buy more t-shirts from more websites offered them.

     

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    Esahc (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re:

    please inject "if they" between 'websites' and 'offered'.

     

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    Aaron Martin-Colby (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 10:14am

    The Economist Sucks

    Well, not totally. But I've been disappointed in the Economist with every strategic step it takes.

    Basically, the magazine is leveraging its status as a respected source of information, which is a shrinking asset as free sources online gain readers and recognition.

    The Economist is not a research organization, nor is it a journal. It is a magazine. It needs to treat itself as such or it will be passed by. Its history may keep it alive longer than other publications, but that won't last.

    And remember, these people endorsed Bush in 2000.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    so what happens when someone "leeches" the content, and puts it up elsewhere for free. Will the economist lock up the copied content too? Seems like one determined 2nd year college student could just set up a program to strip any 89 day old content and then post it anywhere else they want, as long as they cite the economist in full.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Oct 8th, 2009 @ 10:51pm

    Maybe...

    They are just hoping that their reader base, too, are not economically focused and so will shill out good money for an infinite resource.

    As long as The Economist stays away from stories on "free/infinite/zero"...

     

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