Salon Opens up Premium
November 20, 2002 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Salon Opens up Premium ... sort of. Salon will now let you read premium content in exchange for viewing an ad. Is this a signal that paid content isn't working for them, a groundbreaking way to bring in ad revenue (as they claim), both, or neither?
posted by risenc (35 comments total)
I think this is a signal of their impending listing on fscked company.
posted by PenDevil at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2002

Hmmm... It's not particularly effective seeing as adding ?x after the URL they want you to go to will allow you to see the page and not the ad.
posted by mopoke at 8:03 AM on November 20, 2002

mopoke: DMCA alert!!!
posted by PenDevil at 8:07 AM on November 20, 2002

As one of Salon's (apparently few) premium subscribers, I can only say -- wtf???
posted by josh at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2002

I'm also a premium subscriber, and I guess I look at it sort of like a Public Radio membership... I know that people are getting a lot of the same stuff for free, but I like the existence of the site and want to contribute something to make sure it stays around. Actually, seeing the site ad-free is worth a couple of bucks a month to me.
posted by COBRA! at 8:27 AM on November 20, 2002

Josh, the article says that Salon has 45,000 subsribers. That sounds like a decent circulation to me. But I know nothing about this field. Maybe that is too few?
posted by pjgulliver at 8:27 AM on November 20, 2002

I just went on and tried it. I was afraid when it said it was interactive that they'd lock me in to doing some really asinine virtual driving test or other, but all I had to do was click "next" four times. It's worth it to see the articles I really wanted to see.

Made me laugh though - I don't know what kind of return Mercedes-Benz is going to get from their investment in me when I don't have a driver's licence and obviously am too cheap and/or poor to pay for a Salon subscription, let alone a luxury sedan.

But Josh - you can comfort yourself that it is better to have a subscription. I was not able to read the archived Premium articles I'd been (and still am) longing to see, and don't you get the Utne Reader too?

It's hard to get people to pay for things on the Internet. Even when you REALLY want to see things, often you just won't because there are too many other free options.

PJGulliver - Salon's CEO claims they have more than 52,000 subscribers here. I'm with you in agreeing that's a lot, but also don't know what would be a lot in this context.
posted by orange swan at 8:32 AM on November 20, 2002

As yet another premium subscriber, I have to agree with josh. The next thing you know, someone will tell me I didn't have to pay to join MeFi.

Here is how Salon currently describes their subscription options.
posted by TedW at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2002

First of all, we're now approaching, what, the fifth year of people saying Salon will be dead by the end of the year?

Second, I doubt this is a permanent thing. People have to pay for HBO and Disney, too, and they offer free previews with lots of advertising in the middle to get more people interested.

My lack of a Salon Premium subscription is much more a cause of having no money than having a lack of interest in the material.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2002

I'm thirding those who say they don't mind paying for content to support an Internet service they like. I subscribe to Salon, I subscribe to eMusic, and other services that I think are excellent examples of what the Internet can and should be.
posted by NedKoppel at 8:43 AM on November 20, 2002

And josh, even if they are making this a permanent feature, it's the equivlaent of their $18.50/month ad-supported Premium service... which means assuming they can and do the ad-login daily to get the Premium content, they're saving a whopping six or seven cents a day that you had to pay for never having to deal with the Mercedes slideshow at all. If you really feel cheated, write Salon and see if they send you a check.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:43 AM on November 20, 2002

From what I understand, so far it is strictly a deal with Mercedes - so, if Mercedes pulls out, or the contract ends, then it will go back to the old structure unless someone else picks up. I imagine Salon just wants to test another revenue stream.
posted by risenc at 8:46 AM on November 20, 2002

Nice! I've been debating whether or not to subscribe for a while. Their articles are usually good but fewer and fewer have been offered for free lately, and I'm a cheap nonprofit-working SOB. I wonder how long this will last, or if quality will start to slide.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:48 AM on November 20, 2002

NedKoppel: I'd be a subscriber to Emusic now, if not for reading that people are getting screwed out of their contracts there. Off the subject, I know, but I've been wondering about that. Internet commerce will take off in earnest only after it earns the trust of The Customer - a notion that's very much relevant to the subject at hand.
posted by raysmj at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2002

Salon rocks. 'Nuff said!
posted by ericableu at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2002

They showed me a car I can't buy. Worst, they showed me a car I wouldn't buy if I could. Worst yet, I can't even remember the name of the car, in case someone who can and would buy such a thing ask me for advise.

I think this kind of scheme can work, but the add must be a shockwave/flash game (and you should be able to choose among Jigsaw, Action, Racing and Trivia genres) and the access to the Premium content should be granted only after the reader gets a certain score. That way you guarantee many things: the reader will remember the product, the reader will be really annoyed and the content will maintain its relative value better.
posted by nkyad at 9:12 AM on November 20, 2002

Made me laugh though - I don't know what kind of return Mercedes-Benz is going to get from their investment in me when I don't have a driver's licence and obviously am too cheap and/or poor to pay for a Salon subscription, let alone a luxury sedan.

Exactly my thoughts....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:28 AM on November 20, 2002

Here's the problem and I'm sure the MeFi traffic will bear this out: most people surf the net at work. MeFi, and sites like it, are perfect for these working surfers because A) the posts are short and B)it does act as a filter, bringing the most intriguing links to the fore. When I get home, honestly the last thing I want to do is curl up with my monitor and read a good Salon. People don't have time to read Salon at work, and take full advantage of the content. Therefore, they question the value they can extract from the service and decide to decline to pay for a subscription.

Here's a radical thought. Would Salon do better if they published a dead tree product? Or have they tried that already, too?
posted by pejamo at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2002

Salon is out of money. End of story. This is just an attempt to beef up their traffic numbers to show to their advertisers who pay per ad view. They'll be gone by the end of the year. Don't believe me? Read their most recent SEC filing.
posted by moses at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2002

the article says that Salon has 45,000 subscribers. That sounds like a decent circulation to me. But I know nothing about this field. Maybe that is too few?

45,000 subscribers is not a lot for a national magazine. I worked for a small midwestern catholic newspaper serving about 10 counties in southwestern Indiana, and we had almost a circulation of almost 30,000.

If pay scale is related to circulation at all, then I feel sorry for those poor Salon bastards, because I know I could barely make ends meet working at that small paper...
posted by moonbiter at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2002

When I get home, the *first* thing I want to do is curl up with my monitor and read a good Sec filing.
posted by jeremias at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2002

The question is not whether 45,000 is enough subscribers for a national magazine, but whether it's enough to cover a good percentage of the expenses for an online magazine. The economics are totally different. That said, I don't have a clue as to whether that number is enough; looking at that SEC filing, I'd say "no."
posted by risenc at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2002

45,000 paying subscribers are probably not even enough to pay for the added processing dealing with money requires. It gets worse when we notice their prices are very near K5 subscription prices, Rusty has a one and half men operation over there and he was only trying to make ends meet... Now, think about paying staff, real journalists, editors, you quickly start thinking how much long they may resist.
posted by nkyad at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2002

X, I wouldn't say I feel cheated, per se . . . . I did go into it kind of thinking of salon as an NPR-like investment. But NPR, if I'm not mistaken, is subsidized by the gov't; all salon has to go on is premium customers. From what I understand 45,000 is not too far out-of-line for a national magazine of this type, but most national magazines are not daily.

In general, it's more-or-less obvious that Salon has gone so far downhill as to be almost completely worthless. Whereas when I subscribed there was interesting political coverage daily, the site now consists of far-leftist political screed written by three or four writers, and irrelevant conservative screed written by two. It's telling that my favorite column there is Carry Tennis's advice column, "Since you asked..."; the rest of the site is almost always underwhelming. Case in point is the abortively uninteresting "masterpiece" series; another would be the completely juvenile and largely thoughtless salon "sex" section, which recently published, an article headlined, as I recall, "Asia Argento Is Hot!" This is completely true, but as The Onion would say it's a finding from the Institute of the Obvious.

Watching salon deteriorate has been an actually saddening experience. I don't think it's their fault: it seems to me that the main force at work is the deadline. Daily editorial journalism is difficult to accomplish -- what people seem to want is well-written, deeply considered editorial writing (e.g., The Atlantic Monthly), daily news from a newspaper, and throughout-the-day distraction (like here at MeFi). Increasingly I am feeling that there isn't much room for something like Salon -- it's basically kind of a blog now.
posted by josh at 11:15 AM on November 20, 2002

I value Salon greatly, and will continue to pay for it as long as it exists. It's my morning newspaper. And contrary to what was said earlier, I know many people who find time to read it at work.
posted by jcruelty at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2002

Moses, thanks for the SEC link. You're right that it sounds forboding: Salon has incurred losses and negative cash flow from operations since inception and has an accumulated deficit at September 30, 2002 of $79,740. These factors raise substantial doubt about Salon's ability to continue as a going concern.

Seems like they hinted at their current ad strategy here: Salon does not now generate sufficient cash flows from operations and requires additional sources of capital. There can be no assurance that Salon will be able to obtain such additional capital on terms, which are favorable, or at all.

They're really struggling to survive. I'd hate to see that, and am now considering buying the cow, even though I can get the milk for free. (That's for you, Dad! Because sometimes people really just want the cow. So there. Um, yeah.)
posted by onlyconnect at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2002

Will this impact their AvantGo channel?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:10 PM on November 20, 2002

I really hope it works for them. I'm a subscriber, and I'm behind experiments like this that might help keep them alive.
posted by blissbat at 12:20 PM on November 20, 2002

$79K is their deficit? Not very much. Hope they pull through. The time has passed when hoping for the demise of various examples of Web commerce.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:22 PM on November 20, 2002

I'd consider subscribing if they brought Camille Paglia back.
You know, I love David Lynch, but I still haven't mustered the strength to pay 10 bucks a month to watch short movies, animation etc. As a rule of thumb, if naked chicks are not the mainstay of your site, you better not count on subscriptions to go on.
posted by 111 at 12:31 PM on November 20, 2002

Sorry I didn't note it, but the numbers from the SEC report were in thousands. So they're $79 million in the hole.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:31 PM on November 20, 2002

What shocks me is that they started this new policy almost immediately after the election. I had been on the verge of buying a premium subscription to read all of the analyses, but it turned out I could read them for free anyway.

Who's minding the store over there?
posted by Epenthesis at 2:00 PM on November 20, 2002

$79 million. That's a lot of donuts. Still, they keep finding ridiculous strings to tie together their gaping fiscal wounds - like, what, six months ago, when everyone said they were about to go under, and then a deus ex machina in the form of the Adobe president came in and gave them several hundred Gs. No bank is going to touch them, but I've got a feeling something will pull through.
posted by risenc at 2:15 PM on November 20, 2002

NPR doesn't get all that much money from the government (at least Federal, local I don't know) anymore, either.
posted by oddovid at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2002

Sheesh - and the folks falling for this one will shell out well-earned cash to go see "Die Another Day", a 2-hour advertisement masquerading as a Bond flick.

Does anyone else get tired of the constant assumption that our only raison d'etre is to consume?
posted by FormlessOne at 9:27 PM on November 20, 2002

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