Monday, September 17, 2007

Free Access Points Towards Upward Growth

Ever since I've entered the world of journalism and PR, dating back to 2000 when I was an undergraduate at USC, the question has always been how publications can make money while offering content online. I've always believed that newspapers should give subscriptions away for free but instead they turned in the opposite direction and started charging for any content online more than a week old. The New York Times learned its lesson and has decided to offer free access to its online content. Smart move. If you want to expand the subscription base, offering free newspapers will grow the advertiser base and more than make up for any charges a publication collects through subscribers.

If you have to charge for subscriptions, then offer exclusive content that the paid readership can see such as photos, videos or exclusive interviews. However, not only does this limit the readership but it won't be successful because many readers are frustrated with slow connections despite the growing base of (slow) high bandwidth Internet connections. That's a different problem.

Even requiring a login can be a pain in the butt. I forget my login so many times that I end up just not reading the story. And with dynamic Web 2.0 features, now I can't even visit a site without being forced to view an ad before I can look at content. Trust me, frustrating users is not now to grow readership.

I do like the ability to post comments but it only becomes an interactive community forum if the reporter responds to some of the reader comments, not just post the 500 comments that no body will read. Reporters will be surprised by what they learn from its readers.

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