The buzz this week seems to be surrounding the NY Times decision to drop the TimesSelect paid subscription service, and open up the previously paid-content for free. This seems to be the trend for major news sites. On June 27, CNN discontinued the subscription-based “Pipeline” service, and opted to offer video services for free. According to CNN’s blog, the reason they discontinued the service was to encourage a greater number of people to use the service. One can only assume that the NY Times decision was based on the same logic. News Corp’s acquisition of Dow Jones may also result in the Wall Street Journal lifting thier subscription veil as well.
The lesson learned? The subscription model for “generalist” content across the board has had its time. With the proliferation of free content on the web, exists an opportunity for brand erosion for the major “generalist” brands (major news and entertainment content sites). Whereas subscription models are extremely profitable for specialized publishers, those who publish general content are forced back into mastering the ad revenue maximization game. Fortunately, the ad spending predictions are bright, and with the future of the current digital media curreny, the impression, in flux, the established and trusted brands may continue to shine and even grow from their ubiquity in consumers’ digital lives. How the brands and experiences permeate the multiple digital channels and tocuh points in consumers’ lives should be a key driver of that potential growth.