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?

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Comments on “The Economist Brings Back Its Paywall… Perhaps It Should Hire An Economist”

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17 Comments
fogbugzd (profile) says:

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.

John Laprise (profile) says:

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.

Doctor Strange says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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!

Aaron Martin-Colby (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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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