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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Death of a Blog

One of my favourite blogs - IAG, a brilliant airliner and airline news blog - has retreated behind a paywall; I mourn the site's forthcoming death.

The site's owners - two "old media" types - did some market research before making this decision, where they discovered that only 20% of their current readership would consider paying to access their content. The owners believe that even with just 20% of their readers following them behind their paywall they'll make more money than they currently do with advertising.

This is probably true (except I doubt the take-up will be as high as 20%, people saying they'll pay is one thing in a survey but actually paying up is another), but represents a classic example of going for small short-term gains at the exspense of greater profits in the longer term. Now, their content will rapidly age out of search engines and people will stop linking to their content as no-one can read it - so no-one will find their site anymore. At the same time existing subscribers will drift away - people unsubscribe from sites all the time for a million different reasons. So their (small) paying readership will slowly dwindle to nothing, and they'll go out of business.

If the owners had been smart they'd have adopted the tactics used by all other successful blogs out there. They would have swept away huge mess of advertising that was plastered over their site and used a few relevant, well-chosen, and well-placed adverts, such as those from Federated Media and Text Link Ads. (They could also have used Feedburner's RSS feed adverts.) That would have greatly increased their existing ad revenue.

Then they would have simply carried on as they were - producing great content and growing their audience. Eventually their ad revenues would have far exceeded what they'll ever hope to make with a paywall.

But that's not what they did, so IAG is disappearing from the web. A shame.

Addendum It only took a few minutes of searching to find replacement blog with all the content IAG had.

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