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It seems some other folks (including the New York Times, whose senior veep for digital stuff says they "hope it doesn't do very much to traffic at all") share at least a bit of my concern aout paid vs. ad-supported content.
An article at AdAge.com spoke a bit more about how this move might or might not effect ad sales. Actually, they don't say much about it except to simply bring it up. They did say that other media outlets haven't come up with anything much better.
The good news about all of this is that they are actually going to create new content specifically for this venture, rather than limit access to existing content. Nice idea. It does beg the question however, if you make new content just to sell it, aren't you kind of overlooking that whole "how are we going to cover the cost of generating all of this existing content" crisis? It would be akin to creating a new product to boost sales of an old one. Might work, but tricky business in implementation.
The NYT does say their objective is creating a secondary revenue stream, not offsetting the cost of maintaining their current offering.
I get the impression that since nobody has any better ideas, they're going to give it a shot and see how it goes. After all, what can it hurt? If it works, they make more money. If it doesn't, what are the probable consequences?
Lucky for me, I don't have to come up with that answer, AdAge hinted to it for me:
" ...virtually none of the key dailies have made any significant moves to charge for Web content since the Wall Street Journal began charging for its online product last decade. To do so requires negotiating the tricky calculus of determining whether user fees would outweigh the loss of ad dollars due to decreased traffic. "
Did someone say "decreased traffic"?