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The “Walled-Garden” Approach: How The Boston Globe Will Keep Free Subscribers Happy

The new split business model for subscription websites

So you’re a newspaper or magazine who’s watching the other publishers scramble around to create a solid online business model that will hold strong. Some of them make everything free, while many of the larger publishers are back in the mode of throwing up walls around their paid content.

This doesn’t have to be bad. You pay premium prices for the articles written for print, while oftentimes, you pay much less for quick articles that are posted on your website in a flash.

Later this year The Boston Globe has decided to join the “walled garden” bandwagon by creating a business model that uses two separate business units. Boston.com will stay free, and the new BostonGlobe.com will be paid. However, they’re doing it to pay the bills AND keep customers happy.

While The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and various other newspaper sites have similar structures, The Boston Globe is the first newspaper to completely separate digital from print. That is, that they are the first to do it again. Let’s not forget that this was the ONLY business model that newspapers were using when newspapers first started publishing online.

So the new business model will be to keep print content in the subscription website. If you’re a subscriber to the print newspaper, you can get access to it online. However, if you’re not a subscriber, you’ll still get access to all of the content produced specifically for the web.

Now The Boston Globe isn’t going to hold back on content published on Boston.com. If something news-worthy happens, it’s going to get posted online, possibly in a series of articles as news updates as it always has. This is how they stay relevant and useful to the rest of the Internet. The ads on their website will pay for this.

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However, if you don’t spend all day on the Internet reading news articles and enjoy a paper in the morning and a solid, well-written in-depth article, you’re going to prefer to read an article at full-length via the morning newspaper, on your mobile device, or on your computer.

Web readers very much appreciate short snippets of information that give them enough information to answer a question or tell them what’s going on. That’s why The Boston Globe will have no trouble keeping everyone happy who is a regular reader of Boston.com.

If someone wants every article on a news topic compiled into an elaborate, well-written, story-driven article, then they are going to pay a premium price for the article. Think of it this way… when an author gets a book deal based on the content from his blog, readers don’t expect to get the book for free, just because they’ve read much of the content online do they? No, the book is a separate effort that eloquently pieces information together to bring them the best, most well-rounded version of the content.

This is why the “walled-garden” approach that newspapers are moving towards still works and why consumers can still value every bit of free content that they will still receive. In fact, they probably won’t even notice, which is the problem.

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