Promenade, a music & technology blog, penned by Eoghan O'Neill.

Promenade - time to drop paid subscription?

Sep 21

Written by:
Friday, September 21, 2007  RssIcon

Hot PressThe New York Times annonced this week that they were going to stop charging for access to parts of their website (they had been charging $49.95 a year for online access to the work of its columnists and its archives). Despite persuading 227,000 readers to pony up the money (and netting about a tidy little 10 million dollars a year) they have done the sums and realised that, if they open up their website to everyone and run ads on each page, they can actually make even more money.

Indeed, subscription-based models for accessing web content are slowly - but surely - dying. All thanks in the main to the rise of the new targeted advertising models for the web, available to any website - big or small - through services such as Google's Adsense program (which CLUAS uses).

Close to home there are a number of websites that, perplexingly for me, continue to charge for access to their content. For Irish music fans is the notable example: they continue to insist on a payment of 20 Euros to read their articles online. I'll sidestep any temptation to discuss the value proposition of that offer (or the objectivity of their published reviews for that matter, others have already done so), but surely the time has arrived for Hot Press to smell the online-ad coffee and allow access to their content to anyone on the interweb who wants to access it, and give them that access free of charge?

They have a huge volume of content in their 30 years of archives, content which could attract many, many more eyeballs than they do today. Such attention from a larger readership could then be 'monetised' via targeted online ads. Ultimately they could, as the NY Times eventually discovered, earn more money than charging for access to content. Yes, I know Hot Press like to dangle the carrot of 'free access to our web archives' for those who subscribe to the printed version of the magazine and, thus, drive some revenue via offline channels. But, how much of a 'deal closer' is such a carrot? I have my doubts.

CLUAS.comAccording to’s imperfect (but good enough for the purposes of this article) website traffic measuring service, has over the last year been receiving more or less the same level of traffic as (see graph). The truth is, with their 30 year old archive they should be blowing us out of the water. So, come on Hot Press, open up your website and give CLUAS a bit of real local competition. We need it.

And while I’m at it, there is that other Irish website charging for access to 99% its content, The Irish Times. Their web publication division iTronics made a loss of 180,000 euros in 2006. Time too that their bean counters also slapped out a calculator and did the right thing.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator Promenade

6 comment(s) so far...

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

I always thought that HP and the Irish Times could at least put the current edition free online (like the Times does with The Ticket). Anyone have any techie/marketing data on whether free access dents hard-copy sales of a publication (e.g. The Guardian) or even increases sales? Is there an example of a magazine with free access to archives? NME's online archives are quite limited, for instance...

By aidan on   Friday, September 21, 2007

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

Good point re: print v pixels - they are two different reading experiences and can be complementary: I sometimes pick up The Guardian to read in a café because I like their website so much; it creates goodwill and interest for the hard-copy product. More online access to HP archives could create greater interest in the print version and maybe add a few print sales... a healthy HP can only be a good thing (with better writing, of course).

By aidan on   Sunday, September 23, 2007

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

great blog dude. It's so obvious what hotpress should do. I'm surprised to see that my blog now gets better traffic than them, which is a ridiculous if you think about it.

By nialler9 on   Monday, October 01, 2007

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

Too late for them in my book. I'd like to see them try anyway.

They probably need a massive design overhaul to facilitate this.

By nialler9 on   Monday, October 01, 2007

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

I don't have data at my fingertips right now but the consensus is that free online access to content has not cannibalised sales of hard copy for two principle reasons: 1) Web sites provide big marketing benefits that overwhelm any print defections; and 2) People prefer print to pixels. Magazines with free access to archives? In terms of music mags (well, those that have built up some sort of leagacy over the decades and still manage to exist) I know that Rolling Stone has all (or almost all) its album reviews accessible online. Not sure though if its feature articles are available online...

By admin on   Friday, September 21, 2007

Re: - time to drop paid subscription?

Nialler9, nice one on the traffic you're now securing after just 2 years. Traffic-wise Hot Press should be walking all over you, but by keeping things all shut up they are dying a slow online death. I just dug out a May 2002 version of the Hotpress home page from the 'web archive project' (, see the old page here: What they were offering their readers then is basically the exact same that is being offered today 5 years on, the only difference being a (very slight) visual make over. They are not evolving while everybody else is. They may even have missed the train. The only way to find out is to open their archives to all and sundry.

By eoghan on   Monday, October 01, 2007

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