Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New Republic, Old Pay Wall

great wallInformation wants to be free, but Chris Hughes wants to get paid. So how will the new owner of the New Republic handle that balancing act?

The same way lots of other online publications are handling the balancing act: A freemium/pay wall model.

Hughes’ publication, which relaunched yesterday with a redesigned website, iPad app and print magazine, will also use a new pay wall, which will allow nonsubscribers to read up to eight online articles per month, per device. That is: You could read eight articles on your MacBook, and another eight on your Kindle, etc.

Hughes doesn’t reference the pay wall in his letter introducing his redesign, and there doesn’t seem to be any direct reference to it anywhere else on the site. But a registration page does note that paying subscribers will get “unlimited online access;” a rep for Hughes confirmed the pay wall this morning.

“Free up to a point” is an increasingly common strategy for online publications: The New York Times, for instance, launched its pay wall in the spring of 2011, but allowed nonsubscribers to read up to 20 stories a month; a year later, it made the wall harder to jump by lowering the limit to 10 stories a month.

And our News Corp. colleagues at The Wall Street Journal have had a much stricter pay wall in place for years, and only allow nonsubscribers to read a handful of stories. (But AllThingsD is 110 percent free, free, free! No plans to change that, as far as I know.)

Hughes, who got his start and made his fortune when he helped Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg build Facebook, looks like he wants to position the New Republic as a not-super-exclusive club. In addition to the print and iPad magazine, subscribers will also get access to other goodies, like live events.

Will that pitch, plus a dollop of advertising, be enough to ensure that the 98-year-old publication turns a profit? We’ll ask Hughes himself at our own live event next month: You can see him at our D: Dive Into Media conference Feb. 11-12 in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

That one isn’t free, but it is going to be an excellent show, says this very conflicted reporter. Head here if you want to join us.


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