Joe Esposito over at Portable CEO, who subscribes to the hard copy edition of the New York Times at his office in LA, just wrote in regarding today's Case Study on NYTimes Digital, "the Times has not segmented its readership; the people who are paying $600/yr for hardcopy still have to pay for access to the archives. Enough is enough! I'm all for paid online content, but at some point you just get angry.I would pay a premium to get *high-quality* content with no ads. Not that hardcopy publishers have the option, since it would be impossible to print two editions. But online? I raised this question with the Wall Street Journal, to which I subscribe to the online edition only ($60/year, as I recall). I said I would pay $250 if I could get the online version without the ads. I'm still waiting."
On one hand, it's probably not worth it for the WSJ.com or NYTimes.com to create an entirely ad-free service just for the very few folks who would ante up, which is why they haven't.
On the other hand, I suspect there are some very real, very profitable opportunities for sites like this, and many, many others, if they used classic, time-tested database marketing tactics to create more new products for eager micro-niches. This is a point I've harped on before, especially when it comes to the big online bookstores, none of which have yet to send me a marketing campaign recognizing that as an online book buyer who spends more than $5000 a year I'm any different from the average Joe Blow who buys a book once in a blue moon.
Partially I think this stems from both the classic dot-com and newspaper backgrounds of sell a zillion people something that suits the masses' needs and profit heaps. I come from the B2B niche publishing world of sell a few people something high priced that serves them perfectly and profit heaps, so I'm prejudiced.