I just read that at midnight tonight (9/18) the NY Times is no longer requiring a TimesSelect subscription to access much of its online content. They found that they could make more money by opening access and selling advertising. It appears that readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect visitors, unable to gain access to articles and less likely to pay subscription fees, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
This is a similar approach that that Elsevier is using on a new website aimed at oncologists that provides registrants free access to articles from 100 of their journals, including The Lancet and Surgical Oncology.
I have also been playing around with a new free music download service called SpiralFrog which supports itself through advertising.
This is part of a growing trend that the potential ad revenue from increased traffic at 'free' sites outweighs subscription fees. Of course, nothing is really free. Most 'free' sites require registration that provides the site with important demographic information which can be used to target advertising, assuming one is truthful when filling in the forms.
Hmm. Knowing what percentage of people are always truthful when filling out the forms would be an interesting study - assuming one can count on those responding to be truthful. The marketing folks probably already know this information and have it in their algorithms.
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