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Thursday, July 25, 2002

The Subscription Solution Is a Dubious Content Model

I have to agree with PC Magazine's John Dvorak — that the trend to charge for content as the solution to the failure of online advertising is not really a solution at all. In a recent article titled Rethinking Content on the Web, Dvorak states,

"While there is potential for a subscription model, none of the relevant issues [about web content] have changed—philosophically or objectively—in the last four or five years. All the debates about the usefulness of the Web were argued to death probably about six or seven years ago. If a subscription model was a bad idea back then, what changed to make it a good idea now? We've already determined, based on good evidence, that people will pay only for Web-based information that is highly exclusive."

My feeling has always been that online content needs to be part of an integrated offering; making it pay for itself is difficult. Exclusive online content providers will do better to take a more narrow approach — the more specialized the offering the more valuable. There's way too much general news out there. Success belongs to those that can add real value.