Paid online content failing?

Eoin Purcell

Publishing 2.0 points to news that TimesSelect is to come to an end. It is mostly an interesting piece that scares the hell out of the publisher for profit in me. Given the calls from other quarters to free our content on the web the idea that we cannot then capitalise on that content and are destined to be squeezed out is unsettling:

The new economics of media make charging for content nearly impossible because there is always someone else producing similar content for free — even if the free content isn’t “as good as” the paid content by some meaningful metric, it doesn’t matter because there’s so much content of at least proximate quality that the paid content provider has virtually no pricing power. As smart, talented, and insightful as the New York Times columnists behind the paid wall are, the are too many other smart, talented, insightful commentators publishing their thoughts on the web for free.

The remains the last great bastion of paid content on the web, and with the News Corp acquisition, the pressure to tear down the walls will likely be too great to resi[s]ts. Even if it’s true that the WSJ has the highest quality business content bar none, the web is so awash in good, great, and utterly crappy business content, all free, that WSJ is holding onto its paid subscribers through sheer brand strength alone.

I have to admit that it all seems odd because only back in March the Editor’s Weblog was telling me:

TimesSelect has a total of 639,000 subscribers, about two thirds of which receive it in complement to their home delivery subscriptions (about a third are online-only subscribers). Last December, TimesSelect had 609,000 subscribers.

This means that about 217,000 online-only subscribers at the end of February were bringing the Times a potential $10.8 million in subscription revenue.

That is my kind of money but can see how it is chump change for the NYT. Still if the New York Times cannot charge and the Wall Street Journal ought not to, then just how the hell will independents like Mercier make money online? Maybe reading Andrew Keen will help (on balance probably not)!

Thinking money & listening to Regin Spektor

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