The Great Paywall Experiment

I have been watching with interest the Times‘ experiment with paid content – or rather cutting off non-paying customers from stories. This chart from Alexa today tells the traffic story – stable traffic for The Guardian and The Telegraph and sharply declining traffice for The Times. The FT perhaps provides a paid-for benchmark, although The Times has sailed on down through these levels – at least as of today.

The Power of Big

I remember quite vividly years ago failing to convince anyone in my circle of acquaintances in b2b that Linkedin would have a future. The problem was that, though they were getting quite popular, they didn’t have an obvious business model and without revenue, it was argued, they had no future.

Of course, as things panned out LinkedIn discovered a revenue stream in recruitment head-hunting, got really big and then added lots of other ways to make money including lead generation. Few today can ignore LinkedIn as a power-house of social media.
The same was also true of Facebook – which used to be associated only with students comparing notes on parties and sexual partners, and where the only revenue seemed to come from people buying each other virtual gifts.
The news that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has linked up with Facebook for social recommendations suddenly changes the picture. Of course Facebook was already making money from advertising (in fact is the largest display advertising site in the world now). But the direct link to ecommerce points the way to real monetisation of the 500 million customers the site now has.
All this has prompted Google to re-think its privacy policy and beef up its social efforts as it tries to find ways to compete – it now has Microsoft and Facebook as its twin rivals.
There is real value in being the biggest even if it isn’t always obvious where the money is coming from early on. And there is real danger in focusing too narrowly on the business model before you have the audience to support it. Being broad minded and playing the long game – provided you have the funding to afford to – does pay off.