The Controversial Move from Free to Fee in Online Publishing

November 2002
by Reid Goldsborough

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How much would you pay for what you’re reading right now?
Publishers are continually wrestling with questions about whether to charge readers, what prices to use, and how to balance newsstand and subscription revenue with advertising revenue.
For Web publishers, these questions are of utmost importance as a result of the meltdown in the online advertising market over the past couple of years. The Internet maxim “Information wants to be free” may apply to readers, but somebody has to pay to support the effort of collecting, writing, editing, and publishing that information.
To avoid going belly up, as numerous Web sites have, hundreds of Web publishers have begun to charge for part or all of their content.

Payment Pioneers

Online publications with the most paid subscribers include ConsumerReports.org at http://www.consumerreports.org for its consumer information, RealOne SuperPass at http://www.real.com for its entertainment and multimedia news offerings, and the Wall Street Journal Online at http://www.wsj.com for its business and financial information, according to a recent report by Intermarket Group, a San Diego market research firm.
ABCNews.com made news recently by announcing it would stop providing virtually all of its free video clips and replace them with a subscription package costing $4.95 a month, following the lead of other network-affiliated sites, such as FoxSports.com and CNN.com, which are now charging.

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