Politico tests readers’ willingness to pay for journalism

Can frees join the paid? Politico likes to thinks so.

The US free website/newspaper will start testing metered pay-models for at least six months in the six states and internationally.

Readers will be required to pay for content after consuming a set number of pages on the website. Politico will test different price points and page limits to find the sweet spot for our readership. (…) We believe that every successful media company will ultimately charge for its content.

Politico operates a website with high value political content since 2007. In 2009 it launched a free daily – circulation around 35,000 – that was distributed on Capital Hill and environment on days when Congress was in session. The newspaper provided the company with revenues because the website was lossing money.

Politico already operates a paid PRO version with alerts and exclusive content. The new version is another sign on media companies shifting towards a paid content model.

With more than 300 media companies now charging for online content in the U.S., the notion of paying to read expensive-to-produce journalism is no longer that exotic for sophisticated consumers. This is a very promising, if uncertain, trend in our country. The collective decision by media companies to give away for free a product of high value and high cost will go down as one of the worst, self-defeating moves in the history of industry.

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Apart from paid content, Politico also started with an experiment with sponsored content (right).

The content appears on the frontpage, just like any other content, with the same font and design, and with a byline, but with a separate heading that says Sponsor-generated content:

The treatment strikes a fine balance between protecting readers and promoting products.

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