The New York Times reports that Salon is switching to a subscriber-only model. (At least, I think that's what it's saying. It actually says that Salon will be charging for "its news and political coverage"—I'm not sure if that means everything they post, or just some stuff.)
This brings up some big questions:
Is this the beginning of the end for Salon?
Or does it herald a new age in which Web content companies can actually make money by selling subscriptions?
Note that Salon's Premium service, whereby they made some of their content subscriber-only, has picked up 15,500 paid subscribers since April. That sounds pretty impressive to me.
Of course, there's also the question of whether Salon is sui generis. Even if they can make this work (and I remain skeptical, but I wish them luck), can anyone else do it? Especially in today's economic climate?
I suppose it's also worth noting that, as I understand it, most print magazines can't cover costs just by subscriptions; the subscriptions are mostly a way to boost their advertising rates. So it'll be interesting to see whether, in the face of constantly falling advertising revenue online, Salon will be able to bring in enough money from subscriptions alone to cover costs. They appear to have spent $30 million last year; to bring in that much from $30/year subscriptions, they need to have a million subscribers. They claim 3.4 million unique readers, but I doubt that a third of those will be willing to pay $30/year for a subscription.