Time magazine is restricting access to the online versions of print content through the multi-stage implementation of a new online paywall.
In the first stage, already completed, the full versions of print content are available only to print subscribers or people who purchase the $4.99 iPad edition of the magazine; other online visitors see an abridged or abbreviated version of the print content, with a note explaining the subscription requirement.
The Web site's original content (online-only features that are not published in the print edition, and which constitute a large majority of the site's content) will remain free.
As present, the new policy seems intended to force online readers to subscribe to the print edition of Time. If that's the case, it might help slow the continuing decline in the newsweekly's circulation and readership.
It also removes one of the obstacles that might hinder sales of the iPad app. (Namely, that the same content was available for free online via the same device.)
According to various reports, a plan is in the works to allow readers without print subscriptions to access the online version of Time's print content, perhaps by purchasing an online-only subscription or paying fees for single articles. Once implemented, this second stage will create a fairly standard online paywall system.
Whatever the final version of the Time paywall looks like, the decision to move to a model requiring readers to pay for content represents an about-face from the free, ad-supported model that has dominated the online ventures of American magazines.
Significantly, online ad revenues remain a relatively small part of Time Inc.'s overall business after a decade of Web operations, contributing just 12% ($225 million) of total ad revenues in 2009. That's down from about $242 million, or 10% of total ad revenues, in 2010.