Will subscription based newspaper models work online?

There is an article by Media Post’s Gavin O’Malley today that piqued my interest  Brill’s Content Model .  The article details that media entrepreneur Steve Brill on Wednesday implored media publishers to shed their collective “inferiority complex,” and start charging subscription fees for content. “The world you helped to create needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now,” said Brill.  Brill further went on to indicate:  “How can Amazon be extracting 70% of subscription fees and controlling the consumer relationship?” Brill asked.  Rather, Amazon should make its money by selling Kindle devices, and leave the subscription fees to the publishers. “It’s like if Sony told HBO that it wants 70% of what people pay for its content because people watch it on a Sony television.”

Here’s my take:

Subscription models often block viral activity

Subscription models often block viral activity

1.  Subscription models will be difficult because there is too much great content out there.  Even if you have a subscription model, there will be a blogger that pays for said subscription that can then in turn repost the main quotes/ideas soon after.

2.  Subscription models go against the viralness of social media.  If I read a great article and want to share it via Digg, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  A subscription road block would prevent it from spreading properly – hence the non-subscription article or blog would win in that scenario, as there is no roadblock. 

One possible model is to to give 70% of the article away for free and the ability to get the 30% via a subscription.  Similar to ESPN”s “IN” subscriber model where I can read about a football recruit up to a point, but if I want to see more video, etc. Then I pay more.  Some people would be willing to do this.  This isn’t a new model by any means, it’s a premium model.  When reading the WSJ today I click to send the writer a note and it said I needed a subscription to do this.  That is just plain dumb to not allow your customer based to engage with the writers unless you pay.  If someone wants to contact me via this blog I love it, it makes the writing better and the readers have great ideas.  The last thing I would to would be require you to subscribe in order to contact me.

3.  Agree with Brill that Amazon’s Kindle is raking it in right now.  Very similar to iTunes for a long time charging 99 cents per song for every song.  The cost of Kindle downloads as well as the percentage going to Amazon will come down dramatically, but in the mean time, while Amazon has an advantage, they are going to take it.

4.  At the end of the day, it’s not what newspapers/writers want, it’s what the user wants.  People are willing to pay for stuff if there is value.  A user based approach is a very simple formula that many bright minds miss when they get confused by technology, which seems to occur more often than it should.


One response to “Will subscription based newspaper models work online?

  1. Pretty nice post. I just found your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

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