Senior VP Paul Slavin Discusses ABC News’ Paywall Plans

ABC News Digital senior vice president Paul Slavin discussed plans to implement a paywall around some of its content by this summer in an interview with paidContent. This would mark its third foray into paid online content, following a 2003 premium program covering the 2004 presidential election and a 2004 effort along with CNN and involving RealNetworks SuperPass and Yahoo! Platinum, according to paidContent. Highlights from the interview:

Things are changing and we need to seriously think about alternatives to ad support, and that will involve creating some mix of free and paid content for our digital content.

We’re spending a lot of time discussing pay vs. free. How much do we put behind the wall and how much do we keep free? We’re talking about that in terms of different platforms. The iPad has been a great conversation-starter, but it’s not an either/or. There’s no reason that pay and free can’t live together and support each other. No one is talking about putting content behind a paywall, and no one is talking about making everything free.

We look at those things that we know have a strong and determined audience, whether it’s certain types of politics or investigative news or certain kinds of things we can add value to. The conversation is not just around the content. It’s about finding some sort of functionality or added-value product or package that we can ask people to sign up. It’s not too dissimilar to when you used to get a gift when you called up to subscribe to Time magazine.

I’d like to have the basic answer about the paywall strategy by June. This is an idea that we need to start seriously experimenting with. I don’t think we’ll have the final answer, but we can at least have a few ideas that we can put out to market and see what the take is.

As for digital, everybody will become a multitasker. Many more people will be shooting, recording, editing using digital technology. And there is an emphasis on the part of the whole company that digital is a growth area. Along with the new types of work, there will be new types of revenue and new business models.