But will anyone pay for it?
I was interested to see NMA has announced that it will be joining Rupert Murdock, the FT and Emap by experimenting with paid-for models online. In a statement on its site it announced that online access to all magazine content apart from opinion will be paid for only:
“Like all other publishers, we’re experimenting with paid-for models online,” said editor Justin Pearse. “While previously lead stories from the magazine were accessible for free, we’re confident this content, together with the analysis our site provides to the industry, is worth paying for.”
I hope Justin is right and I am sure it is not a decision that the team there have entered into lightly. My biggest concern is when I consider how I consume my information online. More often than not I won’t pay for content as it is quite likely it will also appear somewhere else for free – how will they guarantee that the information they are charging for can only be seen on their site? I also generally feel quite negative towards sites that ask me constantly to login to consume information and will avoid them if possible.
The publication has also said that it will not be charging for news until it is seven days old (who wants to read it then?) and some columns and opinion will remain free which leads me to ask….what would I be paying for?
I understand that we are in a recession and that for magazines to survive they can’t keep giving content away but I am not certain of how such a subscription system will work. Readers of magazines like to read their favourite columnists such as Will or Alex at NMA, but how many NEED to? (sorry chaps). Also, on a slightly different note, one of the key successes of Twitter is the ability to share content. As Alan Burkitt-Gray of GTB said when I interviewed him: “Twitter links that I post are the second biggest producer of visits to the Global Telecoms Business site”. Paying for content prohibits the distribution of content so will they inadvertently reduce the traffic to their website?
I think another valuable point to consider is the FT. I would argue that people pay the subscription for the FT because it publishes financial information valuable to its readers, that can’t be found elsewhere for free, and not because of the editorial. It is also interesting to note that as NMA reported just a few weeks ago, FT subscribers had risen but it still saw revenues fall by 14 per cent year on year over the first nine months of 2009.
My biggest concern for publications that are moving to a subscriber model for online content is - will the amount of traffic you will undoubtedly lose be worth the revenues you generate from charging for content? By limiting the ability for users to share your most interesting articles are you closing the door to new readers?
I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know what the answer is but I will be watching how this situation unfolds with great interest over the coming months as I am sure it will ultimately affect everyone in the media and PR industries.