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Money for Content

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The WSJ let the "our content will be free" story spread for months to generate public relations related coverage and to misdirect competitors before announcing that they are going to keep their subscription service:

Mr. Murdoch made his latest comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in answering a question. "We are going to greatly expand and improve the free part of The Wall Street Journal online, but there will still be a strong offering" for subscribers, he said. "The really special things will still be a subscription service, and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive."

The Wall Street Journal has enough trust, connections, and signifigance to keep charging for their best stuff.

Many other websites do to, but as exclusive content rather than part of a package. Bundling packages of similar content channels (like blog feeds) will not work for the following reasons:

  • there is already virtually an unlimited amount of competition that is free
  • the free content plays an important role in making it easy to subscribe
  • Easy subscriptions provies lots of subscribers, social proof of value, and limited risk to subscribers. From those, cumulative advantage kicks in.
  • Free content cuts marketing costs to ~ $0.
  • People hate micropayments.
  • Taste is personal. Some people who like sites similar to this one absolutely despise me. And the other way around is true.
  • The incremental cost of having more customers means that you need to charge more than $1 if you are going to establish a sustainable relationship with them.

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