Developing subscription services doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get sponsors for it, according to Annelies Van Den Belt, digital director of News International, the parent company of Times Online UK. Speaking at the Interactive Media conference in London on Wednesday, she gave the example of the football World Cup related subscription service the website launched. The service had an e-mail newsletter, wireless alerts and news, and a special website, all of which was sponsored by T-Mobile (The e-mail newsletter had a dedicated reporter on-site). The lesson: it becomes easier to get a sponsor for such services if you have a cross-media product.
Times Online runs a geo-location based subscription service, where users outside UK (mainly US) have to pay to access the newspaper website. The service has been in place for almost a year now, and according to Van Den Belt, it has seen very little abuse till now. It is possible to “hack” the system–spoofing the IP addresses etc—and she said that the day they went live with the geo-subscription service, somebody posted a detailed how-to-hack on some other website. But the process takes about an hour and users have not bothered with it, according to her.
On another note, the site hopes to become profitable this year.
The conference coverage is sponsored by Javien Digital Payment Solutions.