By Chris Tryhorn: Stevie Spring, the chief executive of publishing group Future, has today warned that there is “not a cat in hell’s chance” of making charging for general news content on the internet work.
But for specialist titles, like those in Future’s stable, the web can bring opportunities for charging, she said.
“Where there’s ubiquity and substitutability as in news, can you charge? Actually the basic rules of marketing say no,” Spring said as Future reported full-year results for the year to the end of September.
“If you can get it free and it’s as good as a substitute, and it’s as easy to get to, that challenge is monumental, particularly in the UK where you have got a fantastic BBC news. In general news, there’s not a cat in hell’s chance [of charging],” she added.
“However, my view is that you have a different barrier in specialist interest, that barrier has as much to do with people getting used to it being free. Joe Public does not think it’s free because he’s paying for broadband, like a library card that gives him access.”
Future was experimenting “to see who will pay what and how much”, she said, characterising the group’s approach to digital as “do and learn”, with a mixture of fully-paid, part-paid and free business models.
The group has taken a bullish approach to pricing its print magazine titles, with an average cover price of £5, up from £4.70 this time last year.
She cited a promotion of the new album from former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, which is being exclusively attached to a special edition of Classic Rock magazine for £14.99.
Spring contrasted that with the Mail on Sunday’s giveaway of Prince’s album Planet Earth in 2007.
“Why did the Mail on Sunday not charge extra for that?” she said. “We are very very aware of the value of the product we are producing and we are not scared to charge for it.”
Spring also said that she was sceptical about any economic recovery in Britain, describing recent advertising spending in the run-up to Christmas as “desperation dollars”. “People are chucking money at Christmas in a last-ditch attempt to have a make or break,” she added.
“There’s very, very short visibility, almost nobody is talking about what’s going to happen after Christmas,” she said. “We are as well placed as anybody to see out the storm.”
Spring added that the imminent collapse of book chain and magazine retailer Borders would not have a “dramatic effect” on Future, as it was not a major seller of the company’s titles.
This article originally appeared in Â© Guardian News & Media Ltd..