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Will we follow a Rolling Stone?

Alan Hitchcox

Rolling Stone magazine recently announced that it would start charging a fee for users to have full access to its website. I’m sure most people who access the website regularly will grumble, but from a business standpoint, the plan makes sense. Subscribers to the magazine will still pay about $20 a year to receive their issues in the mail. However, if they want full access to the website, they will have to shell out about $30 for a yearly subscription to the website, which also entitles them to receive issues in the mail at no additional cost. So, in essence, current subscribers will pay only $10 a year to gain full access to the website. Website visitors also have the option of paying $4 for a month of full access.

This sounds like a good business plan because it should help Rolling Stone regain some of the revenue it surely lost from dwindling in-print advertising. Advertising is the major source of revenue for most magazines, and in the case of trade publications, such as Hydraulics & Pneumatics, it accounts for the lion’s share of our revenue.

As with most magazines, our issues have become thinner over the last several years. (This is due not only to fewer pages, but, also, thin paper, which costs less and reduces postage.) The dropoff in print ads began when companies started shifting their marketing dollars from print advertising to website development and web advertising. The problem is, revenue from website advertising has fallen short of the loss in revenue from print advertising.

I think print advertising will come back, to some extent, because companies will realize that they can’t rely only on the web to stimulate sales — it takes a multi-media approach. That’s why you’ll see ads on TV that refer viewers to a website, and you might even see a tag line that says something like, “See our ad in Men’s Health.” In fact, in surveys, H&P readers often respond that they like having ads in the print version and find them beneficial.

So does this mean you’ll have to pay to gain full access to our website or for your monthly subscription? I doubt that we’d charge for full access to our website, although we might eventually require users to register before gaining full access. That’s been debated since the inception of our website. And unlike Rolling Stone or Men’s Health, Hydraulics & Pneumatics is a trade publication, so any subscription fee could either be reimbursed by your employer or probably could be claimed as a tax-deductible business expense. However, I don’t see us charging for qualified subscriptions that are currently free — at least not during my watch.

But who knows what the future holds? After all, as the saying goes, evolve, or die.

Alan Hitchcox
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