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One of the most storied news dailies, The New York Times, has been talking about a pay wall for well over a year. Like most newspapers, times are tough, and to survive and thrive, new sources of revenue must be found. For obvious reasons, subscriptions are one of the most appealing potential revenue sources.
Yesterday, The New York Times finally pulled the trigger and announced that it will be launching a paid subscription model later this month.
Some publishers believe that Apple may hold the key to a profitable future. Thanks to the success of the company's iPad, for instance, there's a lot of excitement amongst traditional publishers who have seen their revenue from 'old' channels like print plummet. Some publishing moguls, such as Rupert Murdoch, are so excited that they're investing tens of millions of dollars in iPad publishing.
But previously, there was a huge barrier: a lack of an Apple-sanctioned solution for selling subscriptions from within Apps. That solution came yesterday, and it offers some things publishers will probably love, but a few things publishers will likely hate too.
Yesterday, News Corp. made what many publishing executives hope will be
one of the most important announcements in the annals of digital
publishing: the launch of the much-anticipated iPad publication, The
But while subscribing to The Daily is probably accurately described as 'affordable' at 99 cents a week, or $39.99/year, producing the publication isn't. News Corp. has confirmed that its investment to date is already a whopping $30m, and that The Daily will have a weekly overhead of $500,000.
Media executives around the world are holding their breath. Rupert Murdoch's bold and risky bet on the iPad is on the way. The ultimate hope: it will prove that the iPad is a viable platform for profitable content distribution. A big part of the 'profitable' part: paid content.
But media executives might not want to hold their breath for too long. According to research firm Knowledge Networks, consumer expectations on the iPad look a lot like consumer expectations on the internet.
Most traditional publishing executives have bought into the idea that digital is crucial to the success of their publications in the 21st century. But despite the fact that most of them are increasingly embracing and investing in digital, few are seeing the kind of results that would indicate good times are back again.
A new survey of 476 publishing industry professionals and 1,800 consumers conducted by Harrison Group sponsored by Zinio might just hint at why: publishers are simply blind to what consumers really want.
Is the iPad the future of media and publishing? Media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson think it is. As a result, they're making big bets on the iPad.
Another big name apparently has a lot of faith in Apple's tablet device too: the BBC. According to reports, it is planning to launch a version of iPlayer in the United States, and has chosen to roll it out on the iPad.
Is paid content the online future of the newspaper business? While there's plenty of discussion and debate on the subject, if you listen to enough newspaper executives, you might come away with the impression that they think it has to be.
But while many newspapers contemplate paid content and talk up their plans, The Financial Times has actually been executing a paid content strategy.
Publishers may be excited about revenue possibilities on the iPad, but as Time Inc. is learning, the iTunes store isn't always generous with media providers.
Apple encouraged the publisher to create iPad specific applications when the device launched this year, but according to MediaMemo, the company is currently preventing Time magazine from selling subscriptions through iTunes.
Apple's approach to subscriptions is one that could quickly hobble publishers' revenue prospects on the iPad.
It's no secret that social media and a subscription business model doesn't exactly go hand and hand. There's a reason that the world's most popular social media websites are free to use.
But just how difficult would it be for a company like Twitter to charge its users? According to the 2010 USC Annenberg Digital Future Study (PDF), zero percent of users polled indicated that they'd be willing to pay for Twitter. That makes finding a way for newspapers to charge for their websites look like a walk in the park.
Pierre Omidyar launched eBay before many of us were online, and before online shopping was a multi-billion dollar a year market. But blazing the trail of ecommerce may prove to be a much easier task for Omidyar than building paid online news properties.
Yesterday, the Omidyar launched the Honolulu Civil Beat, an online news publication designed to provide content and facilitate conversation around "the important issues facing Hawaii."
The Financial Times is lucky. It's in the minority of newspapers that can legitimately claim to have found 'success' with an internet pay wall. The company's subscribers pay upwards of $180 a year to access content on the Financial Times' website, FT.com, which is behind one of the more solid pay walls around.
But that pay wall isn't impervious; it may be coming down if you're a certain type of mobile internet user in certain geographic regions. That's because, according to Business Insider, the Financial Times will soon launch an initiative with Foursquare that will give some Foursquare users who check into certain businesses in certain locations the ability to access FT.com without a paid subscription.
Ken Fisher, the founder and editor-in-chief of popular online tech publisher Ars Technica has a message to readers who use ad blockers: you're killing us.
In an effort to defeat ad blockers, last Friday Ars experimented with a technique designed to prevent Ars readers with ad blockers from viewing Ars content. According to Fisher, the experiment was a success "technologically" but not surprisingly, a "mixed bag" socially.