Economist.com has taken the concept of content sponsorships further than perhaps any other player in the online media industry. Mike Seery, the CTO of The Economist Group, spoke on detail on the site’s “paid sponsorships” strategy at the Interactive Media conference in London on Wednesday. The site has different levels of sponsorships, where registered users are invited (repeat: invite only, typically through e-mail) to view otherwise premium content. I have written about this back in November last year: “Economist.com’s “Subscriber Sponsorship” Scheme Through Oracle: Start of a New Trend?“. It is a tricky area, as Seery admits: “You may or may not want to give [advertisers/sponsors] users that may otherwise buy subscriptions.“
Most of these sponsored subscriptions are annual, and some of them are three months. The renewal rates on these are low, as one might expect. Interestingly, if somebody already has a paid subscription or a sponsored subscription, they can gift the new sponsored subscription to a friend, or add it o their already existing subscription.
Economist.com, which is on course to make a profit in 2003/2004, is also making some of its sections free. For example, the telecom section, with stories which would otherwise have been for subscribers only, is free, with all stories sponsored by Sony Ericcson, while other sections such as one on illegal drugs (funny if they find a sponsor for this: buy ecstasy through your favorite Serbian dealer online!), have premium stories.
The conference coverage is sponsored by Javien Digital Payment Solutions.