Two Industries That Dis Paying Customers
A couple of weeks ago, I read that the final article by David Halberstam, who was killed in an automobile crash outside San Francisco on April 23, was available on the Vanity Fair Web site. As a long-time customer and admirer of Halberstam’s work, I wanted to read it.
I found “The History Boys” and downloaded it for free.
It was scheduled to appear in the August 2007 Vanity Fair and I—a nonsubscriber to the magazine—was able to access it long before it arrived on newsstands or in the mailboxes of paying subscribers.
That meant I—a Web junkie—could discuss it at a dinner party while Vanity Fair’s paid subscribers sat there with egg on their faces, feeling ripped-off by Vanity Fair.
When my wife, Peggy, and I ran the newsletter WHO’S MAILING WHAT!, our paid subscribers were our livelihood and our extended family. We knew them by name. I spoke at their conferences, greeted them at conventions and answered any and all questions. In return, they paid for our mortgage, our dinners out and our trips to Europe.
The idea of screwing our paid subscribers in favor of a bunch of strangers was unthinkable.
Yet this is the current business model of the magazine and newspaper industries.
The Internet has thrown a wrench into the inner workings of an already complicated business model and only The Wall Street Journal has figured out how to deal with it.
How is your business dealing with the Internet?
“‘Free’ is a magic word,” said direct mail guru Dick Benson.
One of the great tragedies of modern business was to allow the worldwide Web to become advertising-driven rather than making users pay for the incredibly valuable information and entertainment it provides. In the words of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter E. Hussman, Jr., in his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on May 7th, “How to Sink a Newspaper”: