Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Pay For News Online? Really? Yes, Says U.S. News.

U.S. News & World Report, which used to be a weekly news magazine, then a biweekly one and is now a monthly publication, is going to try producing a weekly magazine once again. Online. And it wants you to pay up to read it: A year-long subscription to “U.S. News Weekly” will cost $20.

And if you think that none of that makes sense, don’t worry. Everyone knows you can’t charge people a penny to read something on the Web–especially a weekly publication.

Except that you can: The Economist does a (relatively) healthy business while keeping its weekly magazine behind a subscription paywall. So does the Wall Street Journal’s Barron’s. And as the online ad business continues to evaporate, charging people for access to stuff they want does not seem completely insane.

“We’re creating a tailored product for readers that does what the old newsweeklies did, which was to stop time for people and say ‘What the heck happened over the last week?’ and make sense of it,” editor Brian Kelly tells Portfolio.com’s Jeff Bercovici.

Alas, the new publication seems like a classic tweener: It won’t have enough heft or substance to justify an offline existence. And it won’t be nimble enough to take advantage of the Web’s real-time, did you hear what just happened flexibility, because it’s literally going to be a weekly publication, distributed via downloadable PDF file.

But I’d love to be proved wrong here, because I’ve got a vested interest in viable content production models. And if this one works, I’ll be happy to eat my words. Maybe you’ll pay to watch.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work