Time Inc. rolls out first paid content experiments with EW.com metered paywall
As widely reported, Time Inc. has begun launching metered paywalls for its brands, starting with EW.com, the website for Entertainment Weekly.
As judged by the announcement, the company, recently spun off of Time Warner, does not sound terribly committed to the idea, saying the goal of the initiative is “to gain greater insight into digital preferences of Time Inc. audiences.” Most digital media veterans expect the idea to lead to less web traffic and a loss of digital advertising revenue. Whether the gain in digital subscription revenue will compensate, even lead to increases in overall revenue is the big question.
Although the announcement below does not mention it, the starting prices for unlimited access to EW.com will be $1.99 per month or $20 per year, but for $25, a reader also receives a subscription to the print magazine – at least according to the story on Politico. At this point I cannot confirm this because everything on the EW.com website that mentions subscriptions only talks about print, and clicking around endlessly, I never ran into the paywall (likely because they have not turned it on).
Time Inc.’s 2014 media kit for the EW brand claimes 8.5 million uniques and 91 million page views.
As I’ve mentioned many times here at TNM, paywalls have a good track record with business publications, both consumer and B2B, where readers see the financial benefits of receiving unfettered access to the content. At The New York Times, often held up as the best example of metered paywalls at a consumer media product, the results have been mixed: while digital circulation revenue has grown dramatically, advertising revenue continues to fall (including, in some quarters, digital ad revenue). As a result, the NYT is looking to create new real estate for digital advertising to compensate.
The paywall strategy somewhat conflicts with the idea of growing digital advertising through both creating new digital media products, and also going aggressively after digitally native types of advertising. Time Inc. looks to be heading in both directions at the same time as it announced earlier this week the acquisition of FanSided, the collection of sports websites, which has partnered in the past (and will now be integrated) with Sports Illustrated.
New York, NY – May 29, 2015 – Time Inc. Chairman and CEO Joe Ripp announced today that the company is rolling out its digital paid content strategy beginning with EW.com, the website of Entertainment Weekly.
The goal is to gain greater insight into digital preferences of Time Inc. audiences and to accelerate revenue growth for the company. The websites of other weekly and monthly Time Inc. brands, including Health, People, Money, Real Simple and Time, are expected to follow later this summer.
Entertainment Weekly subscribers will continue to have unlimited access to content on all platforms. Visitors to EW.com who are not subscribers will have free access up to a defined reading limit and will then be presented with a variety of paid offers, including a monthly unlimited web access pass, new fee-based apps, and an “all access” bundle with web access, print and digital magazine subscription, newsletters and more.
“Deepening our relationships with digital audiences who value our premium content is of paramount importance to us,” said Ripp. “It enables us to better identify and understand the changing needs of our audiences and provide greater value by introducing targeted products and services.”
Rich Battista, Executive Vice President of Time Inc. and President of People and Entertainment Weekly, added: “Whether it’s non-stop information about the series finale of Mad Men or a deep dive into the making of the summer blockbuster Jurassic World, we are offering EW’s premium content to the most passionate and obsessive entertainment fans who need to be the first to know about the best in entertainment. We’ll be closely monitoring this roll-out in an effort to better understand our audience’s digital habits over time.”
Similar types of offerings to those available to EW.com visitors will soon be introduced on other Time Inc. sites and provide the company with the opportunity to more effectively understand its online visitors, craft targeted messages for them and help address their needs through existing and new products across all brands.
“Our paid content strategies need to be flexible and able to adjust to the rapidly evolving needs and expectations of our consumers,” said Time Inc. Executive Vice President of Consumer Marketing and Revenue Lynne Biggar. “We have a comprehensive testing strategy and look forward to learning with our consumers.”.
By offering a broader set of digital products, the paid content approach is expected to attract new customers and strengthen Time Inc.’s growth efforts.