Time Out considers going to free

I have probably bought more copies of Time Out than any other magazine, although sadly not recently, so it is with a little nostalgia that I relay the news from BrandRepublic and MobHappy that TimeOut is considering scrapping the cover charge for it’s iconic London listings magazine.

The option is to have a web based listings service complemented by a limited free circulation. Interestingly Tom Elliott, Chairman and Founder highlights the fact that advertisers don’t like free as a consideration against making this move.

I would say they are finished if they don’t do at some point and much better to take the pain now.

  • Nic – I really disagree with this – the fact is you could not support Time Out in its current form on advertising only. You would have to drastically cut down the product and remove a lot of the content beyond listings. Current ad climate is not a great time to move to an ad-funded model. A web service will never deliver the same scale of revenues as a paid-for print product. Time out should have opened up online earlier in parallel with the paid for print product but moving the whole business model over to digital will be a disaster.

  • Nic – I really disagree with this – the fact is you could not support Time Out in its current form on advertising only. You would have to drastically cut down the product and remove a lot of the content beyond listings. Current ad climate is not a great time to move to an ad-funded model. A web service will never deliver the same scale of revenues as a paid-for print product. Time out should have opened up online earlier in parallel with the paid for print product but moving the whole business model over to digital will be a disaster.

  • nic

    Hi James – you are right that it won’t be easy, and they might well have to change the nature of their offering or find some business model or advertising innovation to make it all work, but one thing is for sure – paid circulation will continue falling. Doing nothing is not an option.

  • nic

    Hi James – you are right that it won’t be easy, and they might well have to change the nature of their offering or find some business model or advertising innovation to make it all work, but one thing is for sure – paid circulation will continue falling. Doing nothing is not an option.

  • I agree – innovate on the product and beef up online and mobile by all means but keep some form of premium paid print platform running – there will always be a section of the audience that will be willing to pay for it, even if this declines. Maybe a part free/ part paid model could work.

  • I agree – innovate on the product and beef up online and mobile by all means but keep some form of premium paid print platform running – there will always be a section of the audience that will be willing to pay for it, even if this declines. Maybe a part free/ part paid model could work.

  • ivanpope

    Speaking as Time Out’s first internet consultant (early in the day, 1994, hi Sam Michel, Chinwag), they seem to have spent almost fifteen years avoiding the issues. That doesn’t mean of course that they could have done it earlier or that it will work now, but the opportunities to lead the field are long gone. When I worked for them they were very distracted by launching Time Out New York. I still credit them with getting started early on. That said, my guess is that this story is more to do with a desire to sell the business than it is a real interest in going online.

  • Speaking as Time Out’s first internet consultant (early in the day, 1994, hi Sam Michel, Chinwag), they seem to have spent almost fifteen years avoiding the issues. That doesn’t mean of course that they could have done it earlier or that it will work now, but the opportunities to lead the field are long gone. When I worked for them they were very distracted by launching Time Out New York. I still credit them with getting started early on. That said, my guess is that this story is more to do with a desire to sell the business than it is a real interest in going online.

  • Not just them – I can name a few other listings businesses that have put heads firmly in sand! Time Out now is between a rock and a hard place. I agree largely with James in that Ad supported listings, user generated (and gamed) reviews plus PR funded puff pieces is probably the freepaper endgame.

    But Nic is right when he notes that the free lunch will be eaten, the only question now is who gets to eat it?

    I also think there is a market for a premium priced London review, but it – in my opinion – is far smaller than today’s market if a listings freepaper starts.

    Can TO do both ? They do have the brand for their “specialist” mags already.

  • Not just them – I can name a few other listings businesses that have put heads firmly in sand! Time Out now is between a rock and a hard place. I agree largely with James in that Ad supported listings, user generated (and gamed) reviews plus PR funded puff pieces is probably the freepaper endgame.

    But Nic is right when he notes that the free lunch will be eaten, the only question now is who gets to eat it?

    I also think there is a market for a premium priced London review, but it – in my opinion – is far smaller than today’s market if a listings freepaper starts.

    Can TO do both ? They do have the brand for their “specialist” mags already.