Business Class: Freemium for News? | Information Architects

Business Class: Freemium for News?

I had a perspective-changing talk on the subject of pay walls with the chief executive of a big publishing company (no, I can’t tell you who). He asked me what I think about pay walls. I told him what I always say: The main currency of news sites is attention not dollars, and that I believe that it is the publisher’s job to turn that attention into money, to keep the attention machine running. He nodded and made the following, astonishing statement:

“I can’t see pay walls working out either. But we need to do something before we lose all of our current subscribers. Sure. It’s a tough business environment, but… But the flight industry is a tough environment too, and they found ways. So tell me: Why do people fly Business Class? In the end, an airplane brings me to the same place regardless of whether I fly Economy or Business Class, and the massive price-increase I pay doesn’t compare the difference in value.”

He asked whether I knew of a way to apply this logic to online news. What would a Business Class news site look like?

“People pay for Business Class because they don’t want to be tortured in Economy. They get faster lanes at the security check. They get an extra glass of champagne. The stewards are more attentive. They get off the plane more quickly. They get the feeling of a higher social status.”

And he added that he wished that there was a way to lead each reader through to Economy again, to again show what they avoided by being in Business Class.

Interesting take on paid subscriptions for news.

I must confess, I'm one of those people who will not get a subscription even for news content I tend to like. NYT is the one that comes to mind. I find I like most of their articles, but ever since they put in the article cap (but still allowed users who were *linked* to their content to see said content), I simply Google every article I'm interested in, and find the 'back door' to see the content.

If they had a real distinction between economy and 'premium' though, I might just stop using Google as a back door.

Oh, and of course, they would have to properly convince me of the premium experience. Right now, for NYT, it just isn't coming through.