Pando goes behind paywall, offering members first access to full stories
The technology news site Pando.com has been put behind a paywall using a membership model. Members who agree to pay $10 per month, or $100 for year paid up front, will get access to full articles before others, who will still be able to access much of the site’s content if they come in through social media like Twitter.
“The new Pando is almost two years in the making,” site founder Sarah Lacy and editorial director Paul Carr wrote when announcing the move. “When Pando acquired NSFWCORP in late 2013, we inherited not just a fully-functioning subscription CMS but also a deep understanding of the benefits (and risks) of reader-supported journalism. As NSFWCORP discovered, hiding content behind a (ugh) paywall makes it harder for readers to discover your journalism, and easier for critics to dismiss it.”
The move is intended to make Pando less reliant on advertising and events, both of which often take a dedicated staff to make work. Journalist launched ventures have been far more eager to adopt a paid content approach than traditional media companies who often launch a new brand in order to increase the amount of advertising real estate their sales teams can offer clients.
The timing is interesting as the site has just completed its Pandoland conference in Nashville which got plenty of press attention locally, coming a week after a competing start-up conference. (I’ll leave you to look in Google News to view the fireworks.)
Launched as PandoDaily by former TechCrunch columnist Sarah Lacy in 2012, the site has a list of investors that includes Marc Andreessen and numerous funds – but its total funding, as Lacy admits, is small compared to other tech websites.
“Pando has raised less than four million dollars in funding, ever — around 1/25th of the amount raised by Buzzfeed,” Lacy wrote. “We’ve long argued, at both Pando and NSFWCORP, that there’s nothing inherently wrong with using venture capital to get a media company off the ground. The trick is to keep investors in their proper place: No investor in Pando owns more than 10% of the company, nor do any venture capitalists have board seats or any other kind of influence on any aspect of the organization. It hopefully goes without saying that they have zero input or influence on the newsroom.”
This is position makes a certain amount of sense as VCs (and PEs) will always want to sell off their positions. One could argue, though, that the value of any start-up media property today is firmly in the journalists behind the brand, something new owners would not want to see walk away (though it certainly happens).
Lacy has in the past acknowledged that the site has to navigate its way through the Silicon Valley investor community, some whom are also backers.
“This is a news site built for the startup community, so the more of them that are a part of it, the better,” Lacy wrote in 2012. “Some people will call this a conflict. Even though it’s become standard for tech sites to be backed by investors they all cover, it’s certainly messy.”