The online publication covering the media and entertainment industry, recently purchased by Brill Media Holdings, sent an e-mail to its registered consumers that says it will begin charging $3.95 a month for access to most of its site. Currently, the company charges $19.95 a month for premium services such as its "Inside" Dope and "Big News" columns, but most of its articles have been available for free.
Stuart Jordan, senior vice president of circulation marketing at Brill Media, said the company would start charging fees in mid-July, although some material will remain free.
"As you'll see as the new system develops, there will be plenty of information for someone to see in the free model, and they won't just be hitting a wall," he said.
The move, expected for months, highlights Web publications' attempts to charge readers for access. Many such companies face financial difficulties amid the struggling online advertising environment.
"Companies, due to the inability to generate ad revenue, are forced to go into anything to diversify revenues," said Patrick Keane, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix. "But I still think consumer apathy to pay for anything online is too strong."
Inside.com's subscription plans have already sent small ripples through the industry. Earlier this week, it broke off a content distribution agreement with Yahoo in anticipation of the publication's subscription fees.
Many Web media companies depend on other online publications for content. In Yahoo's case, companies either give away their content or pay the Web portal to distribute it. But if more companies follow Inside.com's lead, the economics of distributing content could reverse to mirror that of network TV, where content producers sell rights to broadcast and syndication.
So far, promised revenues from online advertising have not materialized and have diminished many expectations, forcing some companies to revisit their policies of giving away content and services.
"To be blunt--we have to make a business of our own business," read the e-mail sent to Inside.com readers. "Which means we have to charge--albeit just pennies a day--for what we deliver."