Thursday, March 27, 2003

Major magazine publishers continue to pull back free content from their Web portals, with Time Inc.'s announcement to privatize People and Entertainment Weekly being only the latest. Time is allowing access for print and AOL subscribers only to these tabloid outlets, but keeping other outlets open to online access. The significance of this split move is that the CNN online experience has helped to create a very viable news portal experience that lives independently from the AOL/TW consumer media empire. Making highly marketable content exclusive to captive outlets is still a key defensive strategy - witness the long reign of Cantor Fitzgerald's highly valued bond pricing on Telerate for two decades - but in today's content market, exclusivity is more like a sandcastle than a fortress. Content is valued for what it can do within a context, and if content can't be placed in the environments that people value, its subscription value will waste away. Publishers of profressional content need to take a much more serious look at how web services can combine with subscription services to provide more immediate relevance if they expect to protect ongoing margins.
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