News Sites Hustle for Profitability
July 12, 2002 5:51 AM   Subscribe

News Sites Hustle for Profitability
In a recent survey of 429 newspaper Web sites worldwide by media consulting group Innovation, only 5.5 percent of North American sites currently charge a subscriber fee. But many are re-considering that model. Steve Barth, general manager of L.A. Times Interactive feels the need to condition us.
"If we took a leadership position and did our part in helping condition the reader that not everything is free forever, hopefully other substantial news organizations would follow," says he.
posted by Blake (5 comments total)
Curiously, I stopped reading the L.A. Times half a year ago or more when they started running those obnoxious pop-under ads. They've done a good job of conditioning me to look for other sources of news...
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2002

I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal online, and don't mind paying for it. I wouldn't mind paying to subscribe to other services, the more text-heavy the better (including MeFi). What's annoying about the WSJ subscription, however, is that even at 79 smackers a year, you still get obnoxious, flashing ads. One of the benefits of an on-line subscription should be no ads. In any case, right now, this minute, is a golden age for readers of on-line periodicals. How much longer will we be able to read best parts of The Atlantic Monthly, New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, New York Magazine, New Republic, etc., etc., for free every month? It's an insane giveaway, and can't possibly go on much longer.
posted by Faze at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2002

Condition this.

:: gestures ::
posted by rushmc at 8:43 AM on July 12, 2002

I think Economist got it right. They show about two thirds of the articles to everyone, but to see all articles or search the archive, you have to be a subscriber to the electronic edition. If you subscribe to the paper edition, you automatically subscribe to the electronic edition.

This sort of "graceful degradation" means occasional readers get by without paying, but those who use the site often will eventually want to pay. Makes sense, I would say.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2002

This is all well and good. I support the LA Times - as well as any other paper that subscribes (hur, hur) to this business model - in their decision. Good for them. Bully, even.

The kicker is, people won't pay for it. Not in a million years. Free alternatives can and will be found. When the free alternatives run out, the people will make their own.

I envision a day when Web/P2P/whateverProtocol news services, relying on millions of part-time hobbyist reporters, give away the news online, charging the "normal" newspapers and newssites to reprint (so as to pay for bandwidth.) Imagine, if you will, open-source-style news; every story ranked by the readers, classified democratically into easily-browsed categories, special-interest feeds (who says everyone needs the same paper with their coffee?), the power of the press - but on the side of the people.

I'm sure that it could work, as long as the reporters could get legit press-passes, and as long as no one group hijacked the system in its early life. We've proven here on MeFi that self-policing works (even without hard-coded article pro/demotion.) Information wants to be free, and eventually, it will be.
posted by fnord_prefect at 9:55 PM on July 13, 2002

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