* Paid Content = Invisible Content

The more you hide your content, the less relevant it becomes.

Rick Klau blogged today about an article he wrote (about Google) on 01/06/99 when he and I (as part of RedStreet) were writing for LegalResearcher.com (an offshoot of Law Journal Extra!). I saved a copy of his email (containing the article) but the article itself is long gone. You can find a link to Rick’s article on Archive.org, but the article itself is 404. Why? Because the publisher believed that the way to make money from the web was to get users to pay for content. You know, like print publications. Of course, print publications make some money from subscriptions, but print publications make a lot more money from advertising.

But publishers, you see, like to think that they are in the publishing business. They are not. They are in the advertising business. More correctly, the print publications who are sill in business realize that they are in the advertising business.

So the better model (so far) has been to publish content for free (good content), get lots of traffic (good traffic), and sell advertising (good advertising).

In September 2007, The New York Times freed 20 years of archives, ending its failed pay-to-read TimesSelect service. As a result, The New York Times will likely continue to be a viable (online and possibly print) publication for at least the next few years.

In contrast, LegalResearcher.com folded and has become a footnote in Internet history.

Other legal publishers, most notably the American Bar Association (ABA), cling to outdated publishing models that others have abandoned. When will the ABA see the light? Will the ABA ever free its content to increase its (both the ABA’s and the content’s) relevance? Or will it cling to old paper-based publishing models in the hopes that it will solve a puzzle that The New York Times failed to solve?

Free your content. Sell ads. Get over it.

P.S. This is not a new idea: that (software, print, web, music, and blog) publishers need to be more clued about the Internet. Here are some other articles (dating back to 1996) where I mention this theme.

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4 Replies to “* Paid Content = Invisible Content”

  1. Hi Erik, I sell music education books and DVDs on my website. I’ve read several of your posts tonight about ditching static html sites in favor of a CMS (which I am planning as of right now) as well as switching from Eudora to Gmail. (If you’re wondering, I discovered your blog by typing in eudora import and gmail into google) But my question – with my new Joomla website, it will be easy to place ads, but I don’t know where to start with selling advertising. To whom do I sell it? How much traffic do I have to prove that I receive? You’ve been where I am right now so I value any advice or links to sites to get me started that you may have.. Thanks!

  2. Greetings Edward,

    Well, that’s a good start that the ABA Journal is online and free. But I’m not sure it’s enough to make the glass half full yet. I’d encourage you to get the pre-2004 content online as well. And to get ABA sections and divisions to follow your lead. The ABA LPM’s Law Practice magazine (which I’ve been writing for since 1994) locks away all of it’s archives:


    And there are no ads. Until all of the ABA acts as one on this issue, the ABA’s web relevance will continue to decrease.


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