The Onion Testing A Metered Paid Model

Some readers’ eyes may now start to water when they cut a few layers in to The Onion’s website.

“America’s finest news source” has begun requiring a $2.95 monthly or $29.95 annual charge from non-U.S. visitors who want to read more than about five stories within 30 days.

It’s a meter powered by RR Donnelley’s Press+ billing system, and the latest example of the model in use by (NYSE: NYT) and others.

“Like everyone else in publishing, we are constantly testing a mix of advertising and paid access,” The Onion chief technology officer Michael Greer tells paidContent.

“We have found that most of our readers share articles with each other, and flow in and out of our site, and we do not want to limit that behavior.

“There is also a set of avid readers, and we have chosen an article limit which allows that fan base to support us directly. On other platforms like the Kindle and Nook, we have had great support from our fans and other interested readers, which has given us confidence for this move.

We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers.

We are not in a rush. We really want to see how people respond, and apply those learnings to all of our platforms.

It appears the non-U.S. test could preface potential domestic adoption.

NYT’s recent subscriber disclosure and financial results prompted some observers to do an about-turn on their earlier assessments that the paper’s charging model would never work.


In a premonition of today’s news, The Onion in March ran this…’s Plan To Charge People Money For Consuming Goods, Services Called Bold Business Move

March 28, 2011

NEW YORK-In a move that media executives, economic forecasters, and business analysts alike are calling “extremely bold,” put into place a groundbreaking new business model today in which the news website will charge people money to consume the goods and services it provides. “The whole idea of an American business trying to make a profit off of a product its hired professionals create on a daily basis is a truly brave and intrepid strategy,” said media analyst Steve Messner, adding that’s extremely risky new approach to commerce-wherein legal tender must be exchanged in order to receive a desired service-could drastically reduce the publication’s readership….

Full story