Summary:

We’ve wondered for some time whether the worsening economy and plateauing online ad growth will mean a renaissance for subscription content.…

We’ve wondered for some time whether the worsening economy and plateauing online ad growth will mean a renaissance for subscription content. Today, an NMA story hears from all manner of media owners on the topic – but emerges with none of the web owners admitting to anything more than considering how to make more money…

Times Online digital director Zach Leonard, responding to the pay wall rumours put out by some mischievous Telegraph.co.uk editors: “We’re always looking at other options; we know there are absolutely ways to make additional revenue beyond advertising.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean putting all of Times Online behind a pay wall. Bauer, too, is reported by NMA to be “investigating a charging structure” – though a spokeperson also said, “for the time being, our consumer-facing digital brands remain free”.

What’s become clear, of course, is this: you can’t charge readers for content or services they can find for free elsewhere. That’s why WSJ.com, FT.com and a host of premium B2B titles continue to make good money after rejecting 100 percent ad support. FT.com MD Rob Grimshaw couldn’t resist making this point in the NMA story: “In the UK, there’s pressure on (advertising) rates and it will force publishers to think hard and look for alternative ways to make money. If they can’t come up with a viable online model they’re going to find themselves in trouble.”

We do wonder whether FT.com could be making more of advertising, however, despite being subscription-driven – it serves very few ads for products other than its own to non-subscribers.

Independent News & Media CEO Gavin O’Reilly last week said he is “looking at some charge structure” and Last.fm Radio will, from March 30, cost

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