Thursday, February 04, 2010

Free: An Interlude

I'm on the verge of responding to a recent -- and welcome -- post by Levi Asher in our now six-month-old debate about paying for online media. (Six months only because I waited that long to respond once.) Until then, a few interesting links (all free!) about the subject. Harper's has been in the news for -- ahem -- other reasons, but two recent posts by employees of the magazine focus on the idea of a paywall. First, Bill Wasik, an editor at the magazine (and a friend of mine), blogs about the difficulty in assessing what works and what doesn't these days:
So the reality about the “health” of magazines is complicated. As I see it, there’s an increasing disconnect between online models that are working financially for publications and ones that are working for getting attention. The model for getting attention is easy: give it all away. But the attention online isn’t reliably translating into subscribers or newsstand buyers.
Then, at The Awl, Choire Sicha interviews Paul Ford, the online guru at Harper's. ALL CAPS abound throughout:
Choire: Hmm. How do we know or suspect that you wouldn't get more subs, and sell more ads, if you had no paywall? (I have always been largely anti-paywall, which is why I am talking to you actually!)

Paul: We don't! Not really. But publications that count on revenue from advertising and hope that larger traffic equals more conversions to subscriptions are not exactly jumping up and down going "THIS IS GREAT." I honestly, HONESTLY do not say that we are doing it the right way, but I don't believe people know the right way. We are doing it in an INTERESTING way and we are not spending very much to make that happen.
And lastly, not leastly (but tangentially), Caleb Crain writes a long, thoughtful post about another news item: the dustup between Amazon and the publisher Macmillan, which imbroglio Crain helpfully condenses up top for those of you not plugged into the media's navel like I, sadly, am.


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