Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ars Launches New "Premier" Subscription Service

Popular tech site Ars Technica has launched a new paid subscription service titled Ars Premier 2.0. The new service will offer access to subscriber-only content, including news, analysis, interviews, and in-depth technical articles.

Ars promises that every month there will be exclusive content for Premier users, and you'll also get early peeks at select blockbuster features and technical articles. The new $50/yr subscription will also feature banner-free browsing, membership in the Ars Editorial Roundtable, subscriber-only access to full-text RSS feeds of Ars Technica news as well as members only access to several of Ars Technica's forums.

According to the official announcement and the Ars Premier 2.0 homepage subscribers will also receive members only promotions and discounts. So far there is no word on the promotions, however discounts will be offered from various Ars Technica partners and advertisers.

My thoughts:

I'm not a strong supporter of paid subscriptions to tech/news sites and I doubt I ever will be. As a blogger I fully understand the need for sites to generate revenue but a large site like Ars that receives millions of visitors a month shouldn't need to charge their loyal fans. If you are truly offering a great deal of "exclusive" content or great promo's then possibly. However from what I see what they are offering is hardly anything that would draw me into a subscription.

That said, when reading some of the comments on the forums it appears as though many of the Ars loyalists disagree with me. I spotted two threads in particular (thread one and thread two) both of which show strong support for the new service.

One comment, from user bwappo, really stood out to me. He wrote, "I subscribed on principle, as I would have paid $50 to Ars just as a thank-you for the information I get out of here in a year, ads and all."

I support everyone of my favorite tech sites and yes Ars is amongst my favorites. However as I said I don't see a reason for me as a loyal reader to be giving them money to show appreciation. Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks think it might be a good move for the site and notes that larger blogs are trying different options to increase revenue for their respective companies. Techcrunch and VentureBeat runs conferences, Readwriteweb sells reports, Gigaom sells a pro subscription and runs conferences, and Mashable holds events. Revenue diversification is nearly always a good thing — especially as online advertising continues to struggle.

Personally I hope that its not a growing trend. For now you might need a subscription for a few "exclusive" features but down the road it might end up being a paid subscripton for many of the features we currently enjoy free of charge.

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