2000 Called, and Wants Its Ideas Back

Time Inc.’s Ann Moore on why all you deadbeats out there should pay up:

“Who started this rumour that all information should be free and why didn’t we challenge this when it first came out? I say this in college classrooms and they start to throw their shoes at me. I say, ‘Kids, your food is not free and your cars are not free, your clothes are not free. Good information costs money. Someone has to pay for the Baghdad bureau’.”

Ms Moore admits she does not know whether online subscriptions work but, as the recession has now hit web advertising as well, alternative revenue streams need to be explored.

Time Inc. has, of course, tried this before, when they put almost all their titles behind a pay wall–Sports Illustrated was a notable exception, and it’s not surprising that SI is the company’s most successful Website today.

I think the market has already spoken here, and it has said that though a lot of people are interested in reading Time magazine online, the price they would be willing to  is $0.00 (Except, and crucially, they’re also willing to be advertised to).

Even if everyone stopped putting content online, or charged a toll for everything online, you’d still have free content from the blogs (in 1997, when Slate did a short-lived experiment to charge for Today’s Papers, we at Time.com bought one subscription–and posted it on our site). And, yes, you can sue their asses, but, as Lessig notes, it’s not a great business model to have to continually threaten your best customers. The course for media companies isn’t to simply say “Pay for this now, you fucking deadbeats.” It’s for publishers to offer up unique content that people would be willing to pay for.

1 Comment on 2000 Called, and Wants Its Ideas Back

  1. I think the biggest issue is ensuring that web advertising works. That’s tough in an environment where technological hacks, like pop-up blockers, ruin the next generation of messaging.

    I’m also not surprised to the head of a traditional print media company is basically saying “I told you so,” while still offering such insight as “I don’t know what the business model is, but we are going to start pursuing it.”

    These folks still talk about advertising as if it’s some familiar entity like a print, radio or TV ad that really only varies by length. A serious discussion about how advertisers are going to get their money’s worth, by engaging a real captive audience, has to accompany any discussion about monetizing content.

    And insinuations that what works for the Wall Street Journal — which can probably best be described as a financial tool — can be applied to PEOPLE, TIME and EW are laughable.

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