Paid Content: Should Your Website Be Free?

membership-siteMajor media companies are trying to move away from free to paid content via subscription. How well that will fare remains to be seen. Is it better to have 100,000 visitors per day to free content and try to advertise on that content to monetize it or have 1,000 paying subscribers read the same content?

“There’s not enough advertising in the world to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying.” – Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch contends that others get a free ride when your content is freely accessible online because they can then borrow/steal it for their own sites. In other words, you’re subsidizing competitors’ business operations. This view runs counter to 99% of the blogosphere…but 99% of the blogosphere is broke…and Murdoch isn’t.

What remains to be seen is whether the content provided by a few sources are so valuable that you will pay for it rather than look for free alternatives on the Web.

For those looking for profit, a hybrid model seems to be the way to go. Deliver some content for free. Paid membership for the rest.

Apply the Zeigarnik Effect and other methods to encourage additional reading that requires payment to find out (to borrow from the late Paul Harvey), “the rest of the story.”

Regardless of the technologies used (and a no-index robots.txt file isn’t going to be enough), paid content is going to leak out into the marketplace for free. Will there be enough paying clients to maintain profitability despite the leaks?

Murdoch is going to find out.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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