It’s not often you hear someone ask to be charged for something they currently get for free. But I’m asking. The reason is simple – advertising alone cannot sustain quality news publications. I look at two of the more successful online-only news publications – Politico and Huffington Post, and both are supported by private investors. That doesn’t scale long-term. The WSJ, on the opposite end of the spectrum, has something north of 1M subscribers, each paying north of $100/year – that’s $100 million a year.
I’m not sure why some of the newspapers continue to stay free. Nando started in the early 90s as one of the first online publications and they were free. But they closed shop in 2003. Let’s look at the NYTimes as an example – they get 15 million uniques per month. According to comScore (via Alley Insider) they had 173 million unique page views / month in October 2008. Assuming some growth and round numbers, let’s say they get 200 million / month. At a generous $20 CPM rate, that’s $4 million / month, or $48 million a year. That’s not a lot of money. They would only need to convert 480,000 uniques into paid subscribers (3.2%) to get to that total via subscriptions.
And that actually assumes they would completely charge for the site. Check out the WSJ Online, it’s actually pretty solid even as a free website. They do a great job with mixing paid/unpaid content, and they use advertising as well. In fact, check out the comparisions for the two websites:
Anyways, NYTimes and other online news publications, if it means you will continue to improve and grow as an organization, please start charging me.