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What can State Baptist pubs can expect from a Web pay wall?

It depends, as with other publications. The American Press Institute and ITZBelden surveyed 2,400 U.S. newspaper executives. Only 51% think pay walls will work and they have clear ideas about how many paying online subscribers [.pdf] (presentation slides [.pdf]) to expect:

Respondents report a wide range of online subscription charges (from $1 to $27.50 a month), yet they report surprisingly uniform levels of uptake on subscriptions, typically 1 percent to 3 percent of print circulation — regardless of price.

Even these survey results may be overly optimistic because, as Nieman Lab observes, “ITZ Publishing consults for Steve Brill’s pay-for-news firm Journalism Online, which just touted the results as an ‘API study’ without noting its business interest.”

The study certainly does not suggest that that small Baptist publications can readily benefit from throwing pay walls between Web users and content with which those users are already be underinspired.

Indeed, another recent survey found that just 5% of online users are willing to pay for content. Whereas “74 per cent of those surveyed said if their favourite news service started charging to access content online they would switch to a free alternative.”

For nonprofit publications which actually have special value to their readers, there is a half-step which has potential. The Texas Baptist Standard is almost trying it now and has some generalized, high-visibility support of the sort required to make the strategy work. Their E3 product offers enhanced content at a low price and could conceivably be promoted out of its doldrums. Buried in the marketing points for E3, there is already one example the kind of pitch which befits a nonprofit news product:

Gratitude: Online news is free to you, but not free to produce. An E3 subscription expresses user-supported gratitude for the value of online news.

Marketing an enhanced version of a news product to users as a way for them to support the good work, is a legitimate strategy. If the product is in the view of readers, good enough. Simply put, we believe the for-profit freemium model can be fruitfully adapted to nonprofit solicitation strategies.

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November 17, 2009 - Posted by | Publications, SBC, WWW | , , ,

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