Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just an example: Free subscriptions

You have been directed to my personal blog, and I hope to test a theory here about charging for online newspaper content. Ignore the date above. This post was written Oct. 1, 2010.

Click here for your free subscription.

Thank you for clicking on Lucid Idiocy's "free subscription" button. Obviously, these blogs are already free. But I'm trying to gauge readers' willingness to click on a free offer for an already free product. I know that sounds strange.

When I was in college some friends of mine worked circulation sales for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. And they would offer pretty girls free tours of downtown Athens with every subscription.

So you don't always have to have something to sell it, especially when all you want is a name and email address.

My question is whether online newspapers can sign folks up for free subscriptions that don't kick in until the day the newspaper starts charging for online content.

Then as the paper gradually, or not so gradually, charges for extras (I would love to see newspapers charge for commenting), some could be added to an early subscriber's account free of charge. Or, better yet, for a very small fee, and a credit card number.

The goal is to get people thinking that they'll probably have to pay for online news one day, so they might as well start signing up now. Contests, coupons, prizes, these are effective ways to collect information, and they should be employed. But offering people something they already have? If it works, it's golden.

I'm going to keep an eye on how much traffic this post, which is linked only to the ads, receives. If it's low, throw my theory out. Also, I'm not going to collect email addresses, much less credit card numbers, here, so it won't be a full gauge of the strategy.

Still, I expect that enough people will click on a "free subscriptions" link on a couple of Google blogs to bolster my belief that a similar strategy would net interactive readers for a good newspaper. If you think differently, or agree, or have another idea, please say so in the comments.

But increasing interactivity is a route toward charging for content.

For those seeking an actual free subscription to either of my blogs, please consider my twitter feed. Thank you for reading.

This post is part of a brief I've written about online newspaper charging strategies.

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