Dropping The Paywall: New Billboard.com Offers Music, Charts For Free

As most major online outlets look for ways to raise the paywall, the new Billboard.com is breaking it down. In a bid to attract more consumers, the music industry trade magazine, which has been charging for access to every Hot 100 and Billboard 200 chart from the past 51 years, will now give away that content for nothing, according to a post on BillboardBiz.

While a growing number of publishers are losing confidence in the longer-term potential of online advertising, Billboard apparently believes that its archival material is potent enough to reel in marketers. (For the relaunch, the magazine has pulled together some high-level sponsors, including Visa, Sirius XM Radio (NSDQ: SIRI), Sprint (NYSE: S) and AT&T). But in some ways, the magazine didn’t have much choice in the matter: As the music business has shrunk, so has Billboard’s subscriber base.

Advertising isn’t the only revenue stream the revamped site is targeting.

The site, which was redesigned by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) interactive agency Razorfish, will offer free music streaming and paid downloads, both powered by digital music site Lala. Users will be able to stream a song once for free, and then pay 10 cents to access it anytime thereafter, USA Today reports. Aside from trying to make money there, Billboard also has a deal with Ticketmaster on concert sales tied to artists featured on the site.

The ubiquity of music resources on the web represents a formidable challenge for Billboard, even with its deep archives. Billboard claims that site traffic jumped from 3.9 million in July 2008 to 4.9 million during the 30 days ended July 20, though that could have been thanks largely to the blitz of Michael Jackson coverage following the singer’s death at the end of June.