Given the recent secret memos and TIME cover stories, the topic of “paid content” has once again grabbed the spotlight, offering at least a slim hope of revenue redemption to some newspaper people — largely on the print side, but with some notable digital advocates as well.
For those of us who went down these paths previously, there’s definitely a bit of Groundhog Day to the increased media thumb-sucking, but at least this time some of the people doing that thumb-sucking are in better positions to make actual change. At the very least, ideas are bouncing around and occasionally creating new synapses. (At the very worst, of course, we’re polishing the glassware behind the bar on Deck Three of the pride of the White Star Line.)
But can we learn anything from paid content attempts in the past? After all, this has been tried at varying levels before. Until The New York Times opens the books on its mothballed Times Select service, which kept certain content — mainly columnists and archives — behind the pay wall, these two examples, from 2003-2005, will have to serve as examples: