First of all, let’s distinguish the difference between a print publication and an online publication. Let’s take, for example, a newspaper. I’ve taken us back to our elementary school days and created a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences.
Let me just reiterate the Venn diagram for a moment, and please pay attention to the middle, the similarities. All articles, whether published in print or online, must have good format and content for their platform.
According to Mark Potts and his theory, online subscriptions to any publication simply shouldn’t exist. While I don’t completely agree with that, I do think they should be used sparingly.
Why online subscriptions should be used sparingly:
- Most websites get their revenue from advertising. The more people that go to your website, the more companies will want to advertise on it. To increase the sheer amount of readership, the publication can’t have a subscription, or it will suffer.
- Publications that are already established (for example, the Wall Street Journal) can be an exception to this rule because their content is so unique and their readers value their work so much that they are willing to pay, and advertisers are still willing to spend money on it. In this case, the subscription is just a perk for the publication.
- In general, subscriptions are an obstacle for a reader to view the content. As journalists, the main goal of your job is to tell your story. If readers can’t do this because of a subscription wall, then why try?
Now, don’t get me wrong; I highly encourage print publications to push for subscriptions, but it’s an entirely different world out there. Print newspapers need to be seen and held in order to be read, and the easiest way to do that is have the delivery boy throw it on your front step. But, for the most part, online newspapers should stick to great content, a great online marketer and rely on those share buttons to spread the word. This way, the publication will both tell a story and create a profit that’s worthwhile.