The U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper is about to try an alternative model to charging for online content that sounds infinitely more digestible: Bonus content "member's clubs."
The idea was spawned from a survey email sent out to registered members of the the paper's Web site, with the following text—"The Guardian is considering launching a members' club which will provide extra benefits in return for an annual or monthly fee. These benefits might include, for example, a welcome pack, exclusive content, live events, special offers from our partners and the opportunity to communicate with our journalists."
After the story surfaced, to quell assumptions that such a club would result in some of the existing online content slipping into the pay-per-view zone, The Guardian's director of digital content made it clear that that's not going to be the case, with an emphasis on the point that restrictive pay walls would turn away users.
This is interesting—it's a wholly different take than some suggestions made by Rupert Murdoch that the future of online newspapers is to charge for all published content. The Guardian's thinking is far more groovy, in a progressively Internet-savvy kind of way, and it borrows a jot or two from the marketing of DVD and Blu-ray disc extras and even Apple's upcoming Cocktail music album-wrapper. These last three content delivery systems are marketed, in part, on the idea that behind-the-scenes footage, or special artworks and video extras will increase sales of the product—and clearly The Guardian feels the same way. In fact, with a suggestion that club membership could involve direct communication with the paper's journalists, The Guardian is even tapping into the whole Twittering-celebrities meme, which has brought a wholly new degree of accessibility to stars.
Would you consider canceling your physical copy, and going online to pay for a subscription for additional content from your fave newspaper? It's certainly an intriguing idea, and if newspaper publishers are to remain in business in the digital future this is certainly a business model that's more likely to win-over the public than charging for access to all content.