Variety.com, the website for the premier show business magazine erected a pay wall in December, 2009. Since then, their page views have dropped more than 40 percent. The official numbers according to Nielsen are 3.2 million page views down to 1.9 million last month.
What's unclear is whether this move is resulting in a loss of revenue. After all, the website charges a whopping $250 per year for full access (non-paying visitors can view up to five articles before being blocked) and includes a subscription to the print magazine. The resulting, committed user base is surely attractive to advertisers as well.
Nielsen also reports that Newsday.com saw their page views drop after putting up its own pay wall, at $5 per week - roughly the same amount as Variety.
What's perhaps more interesting is the loss in unique visitors for both Variety.com and Newsday.com. Variety saw a drop of 18 percent, from 745,000 down to 609,000. This could be attributed to regular users deciding not to pay for unlimited access or perhaps when word got out that a pay wall existed, new visitors decided to look elsewhere, among other factors.
Variety.com is an interesting example for publishers to watch. They are in an industry with absolutely no shortage of alternative sources - blogs, online magazines, other print publications, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Of course, Variety holds the trump card when it comes to "authority" in the industry. The question is, will consumers pony up for this, or just look elsewhere and get their entertainment news second-hand? The same goes for Newsday - I clicked on a story this morning that prompted me to pay for access. The problem - I already heard the story on the radio on my way to work, as well as read it on a free website and even found it through a free app on my phone.
Keep this one on your radar.