Online Magazines made Profitable with Porn

By Kristin Kowalski

Screen grab from Salon.com

Okay, Hamilton Nolan wasn’t being serious when he suggested porn as a way for unprofitable online mags to bankroll their publications. But his Modest Proposal-esque idea points to an unsavory reality. Online publications can’t figure out a way to make a profit. At least Nolan didn’t go the true Modest Proposal route and suggest cooking up the writers for a nice, hearty meal. It would save having to pay them, though.

Nolan provides the publication Salon as an unfortunate example. Of course, he has a history of tearing apart Salon like when they tried to sell themselves and forgot to tell their staff. Online publications can get all of the top-shelf writers and amazing technology they want, but people still won’t pay. They don’t have to, so why would they want to. Nolan spends a lot of the article pointing this out, but doesn’t really provide an answer for the industry. His only suggestion is to turn to the ever popular and profitable porn industry. Well, that’s not really a realistic alternative and that doesn’t leave online publications with very many options. So, what will happen?

Clay Shirky suggests that the online revolution will produce something new that fixes everything, but we just can’t see that now. He also spends a lot of time explaining the problem, but falls short of an answer. No one knows. But, Shirky claims that a solution will magically appear. For journalists that news isn’t very comforting.

I’m not saying that I have the solution, but waiting for a solution that no one has the ability to think of yet doesn’t sound like the best idea. I’m left wondering when we will have a solution, if ever. People simply aren’t going to pay for online content. I still believe in print magazines and don’t see them going anywhere, at least for a long time. For right now, I think the best and only solution is for magazines to provide online content that supplements, not stands in for, their print publication. Any start-ups that think they’re going to cut costs by producing a strictly online publication are sorely mistaken if they expect to survive for very long. Like Nolan says, these publications can’t just start with the dream of being picked up by a big name media company.

Do you have any solutions? What do you think about a solution magically appearing?

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5 responses to “Online Magazines made Profitable with Porn

  1. I definitely agree with you that online content needs to supplement not stand in for the print publication! For instance, some of my favorite print magazines have really great bloggers featured on their website, or links to buy clothing that was featured in the print magazine. These things draw me to the website, but most certainly do not make me feel a need to stop reading the print version.
    In contrast, I was just talking to some people that told me they have stopped subscribing to the new york times. In the print version there is often a little blurb next to the article saying that an extended version of the article can be found on their website. If a more in-depth version is available for free than that is clearly the one most people would choose.

  2. katherine dewitt

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying. “For right now, I think the best and only solution is for magazines to provide online content that supplements, not stands in for, their print publication.” I definitely agree with this sentence. Even though some print publications are declining, magazines aren’t. They aren’t necessarily soaring, but they’re on a steady pace. I think it’s because of its online content. I agree that magazines aren’t going to die–I think people love magazines too much for that. But the online content can somewhat define the publication right now because so many people are online.
    I think Publications must have a strong site and very interactive online pub to succeed right now. Even though most of us don’t really know what’s next in the journalism world, we do know that the online content is a biggie. Good blog! I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Definitely – we need to work with what consumers will do and not try to force them to do something they don’t have to do, like pay for online content. Online content is a must to survive, but again should be supplemental to the print version.

  4. I agree, online content should be available but it should serve as a supplement to the print version. It’s interesting that pornography is being mentioned as a way to make money, but if it works it works I guess. Magazines must find a way to keep alive.

  5. Publications have tried the pay-for-content route on many different levels. And it doesn’t seem to work out at all. I don’t see a good way for them to make money to be honest. The only way is to drive enough traffic to their site to make their ad space worth it. Print isn’t going anywhere, and online content is a great complement, but I don’t see it ever really standing on its own.

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