The Atlantic Magazine has long resisted the idea of a paywall, but Atlantic Media President Justin Smith revealed at GigaOM’s paidContent Live 2013 conference in New York Wednesday that the company is about to launch a paid product within the next two or three weeks.
Smith didn’t go into many details about the nature of the offering, but he made it clear that the company had no choice but to try every kind of monetization. “To say the ad model is gonna win over the pay model is foolish,” Smith said. The key would be to unlock multiple revenue streams, not to just put all your eggs in one basket.
Smith got some support for that notion from fellow panelist Raju Narisetti, senior vice president and deputy head of strategy at News Corp. Narisetti’s company may be seen as one of the driving forces behind paywalls, but he stressed Wednesday that News Corp. actually has been experimenting with lots of different options, ranging from tight paywalls for the Times all the way to free sites like All Things Digital. But he also defended paywalls against criticism, saying that newspapers were “courageous” for taking the step to charge for their content. “We have a lot of faith in our journalism,” he argued, including in the notion that people would pay for this kind of content.
Bob Bowman, President and CEO, MLB Advanced Media, strongly voiced support for this perspective. “Any publication out there should have a paid content product,” he said, arguing that all publications have avid fans that are willing to pay for content He asked, “Who are you to say: ‘we don’t want your money?’”
Of course, asking for money doesn’t always need to involve paywalls. That was a point driven home by ProPublica President, Richard Tofel, who revealed Wednesday that his nonprofit organization has received donations from 2,300 supporters last year, with 100 of the contributing on “quite significant levels.”
His prediction for monetizing and sustaining journalism? “Every major city in this country has a symphony,” Tofel said. Eventually, cultural institutions like symphony orchestras, libraries and museums would be complemented by nonprofit press institutions. Having nonprofit press is essential for many areas that can’t be covered by traditional media organizations anymore, he argued, whether those have a paywall or not.
Check out the rest of our paidContent Live 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below: