Why I want you to put your content behind a paywall

by Carl Natale on October 29, 2010

Photo credit: bamagirl from morguefile.com

Photo credit: bamagirl from morguefile.com

If you like reading newspaper and periodical content for free, read as much as you can now. At least that’s what a publisher of a niche publication told me this week.

It’s crazy to be putting it on the Web for free when they expect readers to buy the paper versions. And the aggregators are stealing the content and putting their ads around it.

That’s not the first time that I have heard those arguments. But this time I got something kind of new to me. This publisher wants more information about readers than what is captured now. By putting content behind a paywall, they will know a lot more about readers. Then they can target advertising better and make more ad revenue – in addition to subscription revenue.

And that’s the best argument I have heard in this debate.

But I have to give a caution. If you’re going to capture data about readers, be ready to deal with the privacy concerns and for God’s sake, do something with the data. Nothing worse than going down that road and not getting anything out of it.

I don’t know if the economics of this will work. That isn’t doubt. I really don’t know. It can work. And if content providers think this can drive up advertising revenue, then they don’t have to charge a lot for subscriptions.

To be honest, I hope it works. Really.

This can be the best thing for me.

If newspapers and magazines can charge money to read stories, then I have a chance of making money from selling content. It shows readers value it.

And the price that they charge can be an anchor for me. If they charge high rates, then I can come underneath and look reasonable. If they charge minimal amounts, I can position my content as premium content worth more.

It’s not exactly win-win because I have to do some work to make it work for me. Which isn’t a problem. The more work, the fewer competitors I will have.

Which reminds me, whatever price is charged by content providers, that will create friction in the marketplace. This friction will reduce the readers. If I pay for access to the content, then I will know things that have value. Former readers can turn to me for information.

How I turn that into revenue depends on what content I’m looking to resell. In other words, I don’t know yet. But I will be looking for niche content.

So bring on the paywalls. Me and my business model will be ready.

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