Free content on the internet isn't dead yet, says Wellington-based news and press release agency Scoop's editor Alistair Thompson, despite the introduction of a "sustaining subscriber" programme at Scoop.
Contributions will be gratefully received and could earn the contributor the status of "angelic", "maniacal", "munificent", "sustaining" or "secret admirer" depending on the amount tendered.
"We've been thinking about it for a while but we timed it to coincide with the Computerworld Excellence Awards to give us a bit of a push," says Thompson. Scoop was a finalist in the "excellence in the use of IT" section of the Awards.
Scoop will feature a "proudly supported by" page to list those who wish to be named, be they individuals, organisations or companies. Angelic status is awarded for one-off donations of $1000 so "you too can acquire almost heavenly status in our eyes".
However, Thompson says this doesn't spell the end of free content for users of the site. Responding to a report from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young that says free content is on the way out, Thompson points to Yahoo as one example bucking this trend.
"Yahoo offers pretty much a full wire service on your desktop these days."
Sites such as e-zine Salon have begun a mix of free and "premium" services in an effort to make some money - online advertising has never been strong enough to sustain a site on its own.
"It's aimed at those companies, like technology companies, that publish their press releases on Scoop. We're delivering quite good value for nothing basically. While they might not want to advertise on the site ... this is another way to signal they like what we're doing and to keep doing it."
Scoop already has one paying supporter in the form of Greenpeace.
"They're not angelic yet but they are munificent," says Thompson.
Newsroom, another Wellington-based news wire and press release site, runs a more traditional advertising and subscribing model and also sells news to other sites.
"What you see online is just the tip of the iceberg really," says a Newsroom spokeswoman.
IDG Communications, publisher of IDGNet, has its own press release database - Press Room - which focuses on the IT sector in particular.
"Basically it's entirely free. It doesn't cost to submit press releases and it doesn't cost to read them," says IDG's online advertising director Kerry Dodds.