Online Publications Still Think They Can Get Away With Charging For Access

from the not-unless-you're-something-special dept

As various news publications struggle to find new business models, they keep jumping back to the idea of "if we could just get people to pay..." And, then they look at the very, very, very few success stories online of charging for content (such as the Wall Street Journal) and think "hey, we can do that..." Except, they can't, for the most part. The WSJ gets away with it because the level of their reporting really is heads and shoulders above others on certain topics -- and it happens to be on topics which matter significantly to many people (i.e., they can make money based on that info). Unless you have both very specialized and highly valuable content that is not well covered elsewhere, you're going to have trouble charging. And, of course, even then you might have trouble. Cutting off people through a subscription wall presents additional problems, such as convincing any new readers you're actually worth it compared to all the free content out there -- and, most importantly, staying a part of the relevant conversation. These days, that's a lot more important than the content itself (though few newspapers recognize it yet). Also, focusing on charging simply opens up an opportunity for others to create similarly compelling and valuable content for free... and siphoning away your paying readership.

So, it's pretty surprising that anyone thinks that U.S. News and World Report has even the slightest chance of making it work, but folks at the magazine apparently think people will pay $20/year for an online subscription. It's difficult to see how this would work -- considering that there's plenty of (free) competition that covers similar material (and already has a better reputation for it). It seems like a last gasp effort by a U.S. News that has greatly trimmed back over the past couple of years.
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Filed Under: business models, charging, magazines, online publications
Companies: us news


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  1. identicon
    Michael, 29 Jan 2009 @ 12:42am

    B2B

    While insteresting, these comments are purely directed at "newspaper" style publications. The B2B sector has been running paid subs to their news publications for years - very successfully.

    In our case (aroq.com), we have done this for 10 years and even subs for our auto publication are up in the last QTR. Vertical niches (even consumer ones) are far more recession proof than generic publications and might well find they can also develop a healthy online subscriber economy.

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