Ewan MacLeod’s Mobile Industry Review is amongst the trade’s better respected sources for insider mobile news and analysis.
But when founder MacLeod tried taking the ad-supported site paid last year, he was surprised to get an entirely negative response from readers in the industry.
The site was bought, in a fashion, last year by what MacLeod, speaking at an event at journalists’ Frontline club on Wednesday, called merely an “acquiring party”. The unnamed company effectively bought the rights to all its output as its own private news source, but it let MacLeod sell the same subs to readers for £1,000 a year.
“(It was) £200,000 I paid for everyone to read my site over the last couple of years,” a jovial MacLeod told the event. “I’m expecting the vast majority of the readers to understand. I know £1,000’s a lot of money for a person, but for a company it’s nothing…”
So how many takers did he get? MacLeod drew a big fat hollow circle. “Absolutely zero, not one,” he said. “There was a Facebook movement. A guy called Mike said ‘let’s campaign for a tenner a month’ – (just) 12 people joined the group.”
But the site is still going strong after four years, now with a mixed model. “The acquiring company said, ‘Okay, we don’t need your dotcom, we actually want a subscription service, so you carry on with what you’re doing (for free), it’s still there.”
The experience has made MacLeod sceptical that anyone, even trade specialists can successfully charge for their content. At Wedneday’s event, he told The Times’ digital director Gurtej Sandhu, about the paper’s paid plans: “I love the concept – I just don’t necessarily think it’s going to deliver.”