More pay walls – Emap makes its pitch/readers respond

There are some interesting comments cropping up on Retail Week’s blog about its plan to charge readers £150 and put some online content behind a pay wall on November 13.

In the blog post Retail Week editor Tim Danaher makes his pitch to the magazine readers telling them about Emap’s plans to boost its online offering with a raft of new services and explaining how this new content should only benefit subscribers.

For B2B publishers in particular this is the pitch. It is the same one that Centaur and its NMA title made this week as these titles look to protect their magazine subscriber base in a tough climate where the B2B sector has been as hard hit as any. There have been a slew of magazine closures and job losses and that pain is far from over. More magazine closures are almost guaranteed.

Haymarket Media, which owns Brand Republic, yesterday reported a 43% drop in pre-tax profits (in the year to December 31 2008).

Today United Business Media, publisher of Music Week, Travel Trade Gazette and the Publican, said it planned to reduce the number of print titles that it published as they become “complementary components of an integrated product portfolio”.

“In anticipation of this market trend, we are managing our portfolio towards a smaller set of market-leading, commercially sustainable titles, each operating within an integrated product portfolio.”

As for Emap and Retail week it must be nerve racking to announce all this in the same week that Rupert Murdoch revealed that his plans to introduce paid content are not on track. Questions will inevitably be raised by readers and rivals.

The comments in response to Tim Danaher’s blog post are only a few in number, but I think they are indicative of the spread of opinion in the market. What is encouraging to note from Emap’s perspective is that there is positive in with the negative as it asks people to pay up during a steep economic downturn.

The very first commenter seems to sum up well the issues that everyone considering such a move will no doubt be mulling. I’ll bullet point:

1. I cant afford it.
2. Mr Murdoch thinking about charging is relevant, however I have an alternative to the Times website and that’s the BBC which is much better.
3. He’s going to read The Grocer (the rival to Retail Week) instead
4. He wishes retail week Good luck as we all do.

Clearly, Emap has already researched this and worked out that if enough of its readers will join it on its foray into paid content and pay £150. Although I wonder if it asked readers if they would switch to a rival if a charge were introduced.

Clearly, having a healthy well resourced rival that remains free could prove a major stumbling block to achieving a successful paid content strategy.

There are a few other points that Retail Week readers raised. A couple expressed interest in an “online only service if it was cheaper than the printed and digital versions combined”.

This sentiment appears to echo what UBM is talking about and while the reader might what it their desire does not chime with what Emap and Centaur are trying to achieve with their desire to protect print copies and any offline ad market they have a slice of as well.

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  • http://www.chartlane.co.uk ross sturley

    interesting stuff this. tough times for the big publishers, hamstrung by profit expectations and with hungry overheads to feed. wrote an article for inpublishing years ago that sort of predicted this. the rest of the article suggests that none of this will work for the big guys and there will be a ‘changing of the guard’ in b2b media. wonder if there will be…? Article at http://inpublishing.co.uk/kb/articles/ive_seen_the_future_and_it_hurts.aspx for anyone interested.

  • Gordon Macmillan

    Thanks for the comment Ross will check that out. So far no noticeable changing of the guard other than some names falling away as they are snapped up – VNU – and titles closing and being digitised..

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