posted on September 21, 2007 06:29
The 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 Hotpress.com 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.
According to Alexa.com’s imperfect (but good enough for the purposes of this article) website traffic measuring service, Hotpress.com has over the last year been receiving more or less the same level of traffic as CLUAS.com (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.More ...