MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka noticed something different about the Time.com website this week: All the long feature content from the week’s magazine appeared only in truncated form, if at all, with the note, “The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the July 12, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME.” Upon further investigation, Kafka discovered that this was the debut of a new policy at the stalwart newsweekly: Magazine content will from now on appear only in the print and iPad editions, and the website will be reserved for breaking news, blogs, and alternative content. “We’ve said for awhile that increasingly we’ll move content from the print (and now iPad) versions of our titles off of the web,” Time Inc. spokeswoman Dawn Bridges told Kafka, noting that the company’s massively successful People franchise runs “hardly any” magazine content online. “Our strategy is to use the web for breaking news and ‘commodity’ type of news; (news events of any type, stock prices, sports scores) and keep (most of) the features and longer analysis for the print publication and iPad versions.”
This is a departure from the standard magazine-subscriber pay-wall model used by titles like The New Yorker, where some magazine content is available online for free, and some is available only to those who have paid up. The Time content will not be available at all, anywhere online. As Kafka notes, “nearly every magazine publisher with a substantial Web site swears that their online audience is different than their print readers.” That online-only audience will no longer be exposed to the longer-form, traditional journalism that the magazine is fighting to save — and which is arguably the main remaining raison d’être of the print form in the first place.
This looks like it may in part be the handiwork of the iPad, here. Time’s app for the new Apple device is expensive: At $4.99 an issue, it’s essentially the same as buying an issue on the newsstand. But since it was possible to view much of Time’s content without the app, through a browser, it didn’t make much sense to shell out the cash. Until now. Time clearly thinks that tablet interfaces are going to be a stable (and similar!) enough replacement for print that even now, before they have really permeated the reading population in America, it’s time to start aggressively splitting readers between elite tablet users and mere Internet browsers. The plan is almost quaint in its rigidity.
Time Magazine Walls Off its Web Site: Will You Pay Up? [MediaMemo/AllThingsD]