Free is the only business model for online news

That is a feeling I have had for sometime and is re-enforced by the recent results from

This is from PaidContent:

But, despite unveiling a new access model in November (giving five articles free per month, and a further 30 for those who register), we’re still seeing a plateau in paying  subscribers. Results said subscriber levels were only “maintained” at “around 100,000” – the same figure as last month, when MD Rob Grimshaw told me sub levels were “largely static”.  non-paying registrations, of course, have tripled since the switch, from almost 150,000 to 500,000 at present – so isn’t converting many of these to paying subs but is trying to monetise them through other means, like direct marketing and on-site advertising.

The message here is clear. People love the content, but aren’t prepared to subscribe. I am in that camp myself. Furthermore, my guess is that if they got rid of the five/thirty articles limit their traffic would rise even faster.

The real way to make money, as shown by the Guardian is to build out a community which converses about the news, and leverage that to offer other paying services like recruitment. For those that want to look further into the future I would add syndicate your content so people can consume it where they want to, and build monetisation into the feed.

BTW – if you fall foul of the five articles per month limit on you can set your counter back to zero by deleting your browsing history, cookies etc.