Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Paywalls and engagement

Library & Information Update, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals' (CILIP) magazine, is introducing a monthly publishing schedule comprising six hard-copy magazines and six Digital editions a year. This replaces the current 10 hard-copy magazines a year. It sounds like a good move and, with its state of-the-art turn-the-page technology on the digital editions, is sure to be popular with members.

Of course as Elspeth Hyams, the editor, points out: "Update is CILIP's exclusive members' magazine," and so only those with a password can actually see it. I can fully understand why CILIP have taken this decision as offering members something unique and of value is surely one way of ensuring they renew their membership.

I think though that making Update available for all to view (as they used to) outweighs this argument. Opening up the magazine's considerable archive of well-informed articles will surely draw people to the organisation. It's the perfect way to advertise their services to information professionals.

But I guess that's the topic du jour. Hardly a day goes by without someone in the media offering their views on the great free v paywall debate. Last August,
Rupert Murdoch announced he was going to put News Corp's websites behind a paywall. Other news groups such as the New York Times have made similar noises, while the Financial Times has been charging for at least a year. However, Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger recently delivered a riposte to Murdoch's plans to introduce paywalls, claiming that it could lead the newspaper industry to "sleepwalk to oblivion." The News Corp Chairman's terse reply can be seen here.

Back to Update, and they may be onto something, at least in terms of 'engagement.' That is, the "clubs, subscription services, regular visitors – that ad men can measure," as Peter Preson put it in last Sunday's Observer.

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