Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Can’t Sell News by the Slice

Michael Kinsley writes:

SOMEWHERE at Microsoft, there is a closet packed with leftover Slate umbrellas — a monument to the folly of asking people to pay for what they read on the Internet. These umbrellas — a $20 value! — were the premium we offered to people who would pay $19 for a year’s subscription to Slate, the Microsoft-owned online magazine (later purchased by The Washington Post). We were quite self-righteous about the alleged principle that “content” should not be free. The word itself was an insult — as if we were just making Jell-O salad in order to sell Tupperware.

The experiment lasted about a year. Still, every so often the dream of getting people to pay recurs. It’s recurring now because of the newspaper crisis: they have been hemorrhaging subscribers and advertisers for their paper editions, even as they give away their contents online.


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