Morgunbladid, Iceland's largest daily newspaper in Reykjavik, is going where only a few have trod (unsuccessfully) before. It is charging a fee for access to its new World Wide Web service.
To access the online newspaper -- which is in Icelandic -- costs 1,000 kr. per month (equivalent to $15 U.S.). Included in the service are all articles from the newspaper, plus the ability to access the full Morgunbladid archive dating back to 1987 for 50 kr. per search.
Several newspapers have already tried charging for access to their Web services, generally without success. The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph in the U.S., for instance, backed away from its subscription-fee strategy earlier this year and now is available to anyone on the Internet for free. Advertising and charges for premium content will support the service.
For Morgunbladid, however, the fee-based business model might just work. According to systems manager Ingvar Hjalmarson, the Web service has 110 paying subscribers today; he hopes it will increase to about 200 after school starts. Web readers are nearly all living outside Iceland; they subscribe to get access to hometown news and thus are willing to pay. For these Icelanders living abroad, receiving the printed edition would cost more than for the Web service.
Hjalmarsson explains his newspaper's strategy: "Our market is only related to those who speak Icelandic and long to see their newspaper. Our fee is 500 kr. less than to other subscribers (dead tree version). On the other hand, this is a house to house combat so to speak, but we feel that the coming winter will give us a clear indication if this will work."
The site currently contains no advertising, but Hjalmarsson hopes to add ads to the mix by next year.
Morgunbladid's printed edition has a circulation of 53,000 and is read by 80% of the households in the country. Iceland has a population of about 240,000.
Contact: Ingvar Hjalmarsson, email@example.com More international news sought for Stop The Presses!
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What they're saying about online newspapers
Excerpted from the latest issue of In, Around & Online, Robert Seidman's great free electronic newsletter covering the online services industry:
"Newspapers online aren't saving many trees. Access Atlanta which launched about a year and a half ago on Prodigy has just announced they've reached the 20,000 subscriber threshold. Unless the operation only consists of a few people, this has to be a real money loser. Same goes for TimesLink (also on Prodigy). They made a similar announcement earlier this summer. They must be biting their nails over at Interchange where the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Washington Post's Digital Ink are hosted. And they said content was king in this medium. Free content, perhaps."
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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at email@example.com