Print media loves to take pot-shots at the Internet. The New York Times especially, will often take what seems like a contrarian attitude to conventional web wisdom, and use it as the basis of a “looka whatsa happenin!” style article. But, on further reflection their “unique viewpoint” will often turn out to be one, that if were actually true, would be great for the bottom line of a business much like the New York Times.
Case in point is this article about how Consumer Reports magazine has managed to make money doing everything that no one else on the web is able to do:
Very few big publications have tried charging Web readers, and almost all of them have had second thoughts. The Wall Street Journal has most of its content behind a pay barrier, but its owner-to-be, the News Corporation, is reconsidering that policy. The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times tried charging for some online content, then abandoned the practice.
For a decade, however, Consumer Reports has charged Internet readers the same price as print subscribers, currently $26 a year (or $5.99 for a month’s online access or $45 a year to get the magazine both in print and on the Web). While the rest of the industry sees print readers as more valuable — because advertisers do — Consumer Reports actually makes more money from readers on its Web site, because it avoids printing, trucking and mailing costs.
But in the end it’s a poor analogy. Consumer Reports offer a unique service to an audience that actually comprehends value, so it’s not surprising that there audience is willing to pay to get to the information that they need. And for that particular crowd, paying to figure out what the best is is easily worth two dollars a month.
The whole thing is written in a tone that seems to be suggesting it’s miraculous, and almost adorable, that someone could be making a go of it on the web. But the Times itself is probably raking in some decent advertising money, so the whole exercise is a bit disingenuous.