Unpaid Content and Delusions of a Print Renaissance
The Washington Post today publishes a good rundown on various media institutions’ recent abandonment of the strategy of charging for content online. The mainstream capitulators-to-reality include the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Salon, the Washington Post’s own Slate, and the British publications The Economist and Financial Times.
All decided that the bigger audience free access creates would produce more revenue, via advertising, than from online subscription fees.
Yet even among those who have opened their gates to the public, some visions of the future remain blurred.
Economist.com publisher Ben Edwards told the Post’s Frank Ahrens that there are benefits to going free beyond aggregating more eyeballs.
“Part of my job as publisher is to create the very best possible experience for people so they can advance into a deeper relationship with us,” Edwards said. “Eventually, they can transfer over to be a print subscriber.”
It’s not clear whether Edwards was tossing a bone to some print-loving C-level executive, or whether he believes this himself.
But holding out hope that online users who discover the Economist’s content online will be moved to subscribe to the pulp version strikes me as, to be unkind, delusional. This is to suggest that publishing online will eventually spark. . . .a print renaissance!
Hang tough, everyone. We’re giving our content away online, but print is coming back!