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Janet Roberts

Free to Fee: How 'Media Unspun' is Doing
By Janet Roberts

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I've been following the recent history of Media Unspun, a daily news-focused email newsletter whose recent history is a microcosm of issues facing publishers today.

The latest news is whether the publication's effort to switch to paid subscription has succeeded. I covered the newsletter's rebirth here.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that on one hand, people won't pay for something they used to get for free, but on the other hand, more online publications will begin charging fees because ad revenue either dried up or never materialized.

The subscription drive kicked off with a stunt - Publisher Jimmy Guterman offered to clean the houses of the first two paid subscribers - but moved in a more traditional direction after that, such as top-line ads whose tone became more direct as the March 11 deadline approached.

The week of March 11, when daily publication resumed, anyone who had not paid the fee was given a one-week trial, and those who did kick in got an extra week added on to their subscriptions. After that week was up, the nonpayers were put on the weekly list, a "lite" digest of the dailies.

I recently asked Publisher Jimmy Guterman how the effort is going, and whether the drive hit its target.

"Yes! We hoped for 8 percent," Guterman said. "We got close to 11."

A "nice spike" of paid subs came through on and around March 11, too, he said.

Based on the publication's 8,000-name mailing list of Media Grok loyalists who signed up after the newsletter when dark, that would be about 880 subscribers for the initial drive.

What did he learn from his initial subscription push? "Stupid PR tricks are fun, but it's the quality of the product that determines whether you succeed," he said. "I should've known that."

Guterman's company uses PayPal and to collect fees. Although some publishers have reported problems ranging from disappearing fees to payment snafus to subscribers submitting incorrect account numbers, Guterman said the biggest problem he faced was having to track down a few subscribers who forgot to leave their email addresses.

"Yes, we finally got to all of them," he said. "Very tedious."

Ezine-Tips for April 02, 2002

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