Newsroom adopts subscription model

Online news agency Newsroom is requiring all users of the service to register, following what its managing director, Peter Fowler, describes as abuse by some customers.

Online news agency Newsroom is requiring all users of the service to register, following what its managing director, Peter Fowler, describes as abuse by some customers.

Non-commercial users are allowed to subscribe for free, but Newsroom wants a payment from commercial users of $37.50 (ex GST) a week, which buys them access to archives and news alerts.

Fowler says news was being used commercially without permission, so Newsroom was missing out on the fees republishers are supposed to pay.

The registration policy is intended to stop robots from extracting content from the site and reconstituting it for sale.

Fowler hopes the subscription model will discourage that kind of behaviour. "We can spot robots crawling for news and stop them taking our material."

Newsroom competitor Scoop has no plans to follow it into the world of full subscriptions.

"We do have a subscription model which gives users the ability to apply filters to the content, but we don't believe in restricting access to force subscriptions," says Scoop editor Alistair Thompson. He claims Scoop has more of a "public service" approach to disseminating information. "Also we get a lot of our copy for free because we can put it online for a large audience to see. If we limited that audience we wouldn't get as much copy sent to us to put online."

Thompson hopes the move by Newsroom will open up a "point of difference" between the two websites that will help them both to grow.

Fowler says the subscription-only model has advantages over open-access sites. "Some of the other sites, like Nzoom or XtraMSN, are trying to work out how to measure the number of customers using their sites. There's only one way to do that fully and that's with subscriptions." Fowler says Newsroom has consciously avoided using the advertiser model and that is paying off.

"Advertisers would be dead set against us moving to a subscription model, but in the end it will work out in our favour because we can go to advertisers with our user base and say 'we have this many people' and provide them with an incentive to advertise on the site."

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