Behind Time Interactive’s Curtain
This publisher is selling magazine subscriptions through an Internet model that seems to be working—even though it’s not a ‘free for all’
With rare exception, magazines and newspapers have struggled with the concept of charging for their online content ever since publishers started doing business on the Internet more than a decade ago. An underlying problem existed in that it had been taken for granted by most consumers that the heart and soul of the “information superhighway” was the idea that Web content should be free and available to all. Thus, the whole idea of charging for editorial content online has been a difficult threshold for most publishers to cross.
Of course, publishers want to charge for what they feel is valuable information: their editorial product. But only a few have done it with success. The two most-talked about paid-online-content publishers, Consumer Reports and The Wall Street Journal, to many seemed to be the anomalies.
In the spring of 2003 when Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the United States, began a program that would cut off free access to most of its magazines’ editorial content in cyberspace, many wondered if it would signal a watershed moment in publishing.
Time Inc.’s primary goal with its “walled” online content strategy is to get more people to pay for subscriptions to its magazines, says Ned Desmond, president of Time Interactive, which is responsible for Time Inc.’s online content, business and technology plans. “Internally, we call it ‘the curtain’ because there is a barrier beyond which you cannot pass without being a subscriber or purchaser,” Desmond explains.
Although each magazine puts a different amount of content in front of its “curtain,” access behind this set point is pretty much the same across the board:
* Print subscribers can log in using their issue label or personal information.