Late yesterday we learned that Creativity-Online, one of the industry’s best known campaign analysis/showcase publications, has been redesigned. But more than aesthetics and user experience have been modified; a pay wall has been erected signaling a change in the pub’s business model. It’s the second major change for Creativity this year.
Earlier this year, AdAge — which publishes the now-Web-only magazine, rolled Creativity into its masthead. Personnel followed, and the print version was scrapped. AdAge still prints weekly, and Creativity-Online maintains its own URL — as of today that site is sleeker, user focused, and for subscribers only.
For $99.95, readers get access to everything the site has to offer. Presumably that subscription lasts a year. An email to Creativity’s Editor and AdAge’s Publisher went unanswered, but we hope to fill in the blanks later today.
When readers subscribe they’re asked if they prefer not to receive email/direct mail from carefully screened third parties. In many cases, Web sites ask this question to leave the door open for third party advertisers down the road. Whether Creativity has plans to implement such capabilities is unclear — but it does signal an upgrade in their Web business.
Creativity isn’t the first Web publication to make this move. In recent days, Newsday and Variety have erected pay walls. Earlier this year PRWeek put one up but left open a back door that allowed savvy users to read their content for free. By pasting a PRWeek headline into Google, one could access any of their stories (a function that’s still available to Wall Street Journal readers). More recently, PRWeek closed the loophole, forcing readers to subscribe or get their content elsewhere.
Rupert Murdoch is maybe the most vocal proponent of the pay wall business model, but has been reluctant to say when the Journal will switch. Still other sites like the Huffington Post have made their intentions clear: they’ll remain free for readers and utilize advertising to supplant funding. Arianna Huffington, for one, has been one of Murdoch’s strongest opponents on the pay issue.
Still other publications have broadened their business models to avoid relying solely on advertising revenue. Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, for example, recently launched a book publishing side business that aims to print longer stories in 40,000 word books. Mediabistro, parent of this publication, operates a job board as well as educational resources and Web/event advertising.
Divisive though it may be, becoming an early adopter of a pay model may be the key to benefiting from it. As readers begin to subscribe their tolerance for it may wain. For example, if you pay $99.95 for a year of Creativity you may be less apt to drop an additional $300 for an annual New York Times subscription.