The Hidden Cost of Paid Website Content to Ad Agency PR

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Last week as I was monitoring coverage of a news release I distributed for a financial services client, I went to a business website that has been on my media list longer than I can remember.

And right toward the top, there was a headline based on the release with a hyperlink to the article. When I clicked on the link, much to my surprise I got a message saying:

This content is exclusive to subscribers.”

My options were to subscribe for a minimum of a year or pay $7.50 to purchase the article. Content that used to be free now came at a price

I hate to sound cheap, but paying $7.50 to access a website article that probably was no more than a page or two when printed out seems a bit high to me. And I really wasn’t excited about subscribing to content that used to not cost me a thing.

But my real concern was that only subscribers could see a story which previously would have been available to anyone with Internet service.

How many business people subscribe to this site? I haven’t a clue. And of that number, how many would be interested in a financial services story and take the time to read it?

What I do know is that the potential audience for my client’s story had been significantly limited.

I understand that the website needs revenue to remain a going concern, but I really wonder if charging for access to articles is something that will come back to bite it.

If I were looking at a place to give a business exclusive for a client, I’d think twice about a news website that charges for access.

It’s true that most newspapers and magazines charge a subscription or individual copy fee, but somehow with online it seems different. A newspaper or magazine I can hold in my hands. (Yes, I’m familiar with Kindle, but in this case I was after an article, not a book.)

From what I’ve read, quite a few people are bulking at paying for website content.

As newspapers and magazines continue to struggle to survive, it will be interesting to see if paying for access to news websites—especially to sites that primarily cover local or regional business news like this one—will be a successful model.

One international survey found that nearly half the respondents would consider paying for online access to a magazine, and a little over 40% for online newspaper content—if they thought the content was worth the price.

That may sound like a good percentage, but as a PR person I’m thinking of the other 50-60% who won’t pay—and therefore will never see a client’s story.

That’s a hidden cost I’m not yet ready to pay.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses

photo credit: Tracy O via photopin cc

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