Taking A Tiered Approach To Fee-Based Content Online

from the will-it-work? dept

Mark Glaser’s latest piece at OJR looks at the plans to charge for the online content at canada.com, with a focus on how the pay system will work on tiers. The basic level of news access will be free, but columnists and opinion pieces get shifted up to tier 2 – which requires a subscription to a CanWest newspaper. Tier 3 offers a PDF version of the newspaper, mainly targeted at out of towners who want to get the paper. Tier 4 is their “holy grail” – where they’ll add in extra multimedia content. It’ll be an interesting experiment, but so far, most (but certainly not all) attempts at charging for online newspaper content has failed miserably. The problem is that you’re competing against tons of free content that is often considered as good, if not better. You have to really offer something different, that can’t be found elsewhere, and which people place a value on. The Wall Street Journal has been able to do that. Most news organizations, though, can’t get that sort of buy-in. There are also pretty big risks in taking this route. Page views drop precipitously – so if you don’t get back the lost ad revenue in subscription fees, you’re actually worse off. You also have to realize that there are additional costs associated with billing, customer support, and maintaining subscriptions (partly offset by lower bandwidth fees). There’s also the larger question of blocking your content off from the world. What makes content increasingly valuable these days is the links between it and other content. That is, after all, what makes the web what it is. Blocking up your content behind a paid wall like that cuts you out of that process, for the most part. Depending on what they’re trying to do, some sites may be able to get away with that, but the risks are pretty big. It makes it much more difficult for new people (customers) to discover you and realize you might be relevant to their lives. It also makes your overall content less valuable because there isn’t any of the additional valuable discussions that often go on around good content.

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