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With the proliferation of new digital products and brand extensions, publishers are exploring ways to package their cross-platform content, placing a value on digital while keeping print part of the mix. IDG's Macworld has launched a new subscription-based program, called Macworld Insider, to its Web site that provides access to an ad-free version of the site, as well as a series of special content and other benefits.
One way to attempt to solve the conundrum of putting a site that's had a history of free access behind a paywall is to bundle special content privileges for a smaller, but highly committed audience. Macworld is betting that a core readership will pay for access to exclusive content and an ad-free version of Macworld.com.
A standalone subscription costs $39.95 per year. However, existing print and/or digital subscribers get the service for $19.95. Non-subscribers can bundle the Insider service and a subscription to the magazine in print or digital form for $39.95.
Insider features include access to an ad-free version of Macworld.com; full-text RSS feeds of all Macworld content; a pdf back issue archive to January 2007 that's searchable, DRM-free and iPad compatible; a subscriber-only Web forum; a free floor pass to Macworld 2011; and access to editors and writers via live chat. Multi-page articles can also be viewed as a single page—the absence of ads voids the practice of slicing up stories into multiple pages for pageview boosts.
Other member benefits include an e-newsletter and discounts on subscriptions and directories.
"iPad users will find the combination of Macworld Insider and a digital subscription especially compelling," said Stephan Scherzer, vice president and general manager, online at Macworld, in a statement. "We plan on adding even more features and benefits to the Macworld Insider subscription as we get feedback from members."
The ad-free site is an interesting approach, but it appears that it's not totally absent of marketing. On Macworld Insider's sign-up page, the small print points out that the custom page designs block "most" ads, including "display, rich media, interstitial, and Google text ads." Ads for Macworld products will remain, however, as will in-video ads and "certain sponsorships and paid placements."
Nevertheless, the custom ad-free view of the site is essentially the same platform as the standard site, and users are given control of that view. "Instead of leaving blank spaces, the page template responds and everything floats up to fill in the space. The user can toggle the ads on and off dynamically with the push of a button," says Alisha Billingsley, e-commerce manager, PCWorld and Macworld.
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