PC enthusiast site adds fee-based service

Ars Technica, which offers news and discussion about everything from games to nanotechnology, begins offering a premier membership in an attempt to bring in more revenue.

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Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Ars Technica, a PC enthusiast site with news and discussion about everything from games to nanotechnology, has begun offering a premier membership as a way to bring in more revenue.

The membership, which costs $5 per month or $50 per year, gives members access to easy-to-print computer guides on its site, discount prices at online store Chip Merchant, special titles when posting opinions in discussion forums, and permission to post in some restricted forums.

Jon "Hannibal" Stokes, Ars' senior CPU editor, assured readers that "all content on the Ars Technica Web site is and will always remain free." But Ars needed to do something to keep the site running without filling its pages with ads.

"Ars is not a profitable enterprise. That's OK, because we never set out to be. But it is no longer becoming feasible for us to run the site out of pocket...We're serving more pages than ever, but making less on advertising than we were in our first year of existence," stated a note posted on the site Thursday. "Now that times are rough, we're coming to you, the community, for support rather than some large corporate sponsor."

While not exactly a subscription, the move to premium content and membership parallels a shift among online publishers looking to recover from slumping ad sales.

Other computing enthusiast sites, such as Tom's Hardware Guide and AnandTech, remain free. Slashdot, which was also free, was purchased by Andover.net in 1999 and later became part of VA Linux Systems.

Feedback about the change on Ars Technica's forum has been generally favorable so far. "I applaud Ars for applying a decent business model. With all of the Web sites currently finding that giving free content out in unlimited amounts was not profitable, it is good to find one group who tries a solution," one reader wrote.