Paying For What?

Business Week is planning to experiment with a pay wall for online content. Well, kind of. But it is clear they are hedging their bets and by doing so the magazine is communicating uncertainty. According to MediaWeek  , Business Week content will be available for free but subscribers will get a more “interesting experience”: the subscriber-only view will be print-like in presentation. That is turning the clock back to the late 1990s. In the UK, the now defunct Bonnier newspaper Business Am was the first to introduce an online print presentation, followed a few weeks later in the U.S. by the New York Times. But it wasn’t wildly popular with the online crowd. The reason being? The traditional masqerading as the innovative is a turn-off. Traditional media is still at sea about how to exploit fully digital platforms.

Business Week is hedging bets also by trying what Newsweek and Time have been trying for ages now in different forms: being more forward-leaning with their stories.  But Newsweek and Time just have not been able to pull it off in my mind. They are not good at picking the stories of tomorrow. Business Week also plans to do more on the instant business news front. Heaven knows why — that is a crowded field with Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, the FT and Wall Street Journal. The magazine would be better served — and would better serve readers – by concentrating on what it used to do well: in depth and investigative pieces that draws together politics and business and economics.

One innovation the magazine has just introduced online does have potential. It has created a business social net. The building of community is a good way forward, that is if practitioners, economists, commentators, etc, are brought together exchanging ideas and thoughts. But will that be enough to pay the magazine’s bills?