Paywalls Rise Again: Pando is Latest to Introduce Membership Model
On Monday, Pando (formerly PandoDaily) joined the ranks of Slate and Time Inc., becoming the latest media company to turn its online content model from free-for-all to freemium. The site launched a membership-driven paywall where the newest articles on the site will be available to members first. Memberships cost $10 a month or $100 for the year. Like Slate Plus, Pando promises more exclusive member features to come.
The paywall coincides with a massive overhaul of the site, wrote founder, editor-in-chief, and CEO Sarah Lacy and editorial director Paul Carr in an announcement to Pando readers. The redesigned site is powered by an in-house CMS, inherited from the acquisition of Carr's NSFWCORP in 2013. In that sense, wrote Lacy and Carr, the paywall has been over two years in the making.
In fact, the new paywall shares some key characteristics with NSFWCORP's paywall. An unlock feature, which allows members to unlock a certain number of articles and share with non-members, was originally a feature of NSFWCORP's paywall. "We had to solve that problem of how you show people what's behind the paywall without just giving away a bunch of free stuff," said Carr in an interview with Mathew Ingram (then of GigaOm) after NSFWCORP was acquired, "And the answer is you do what a member's club does, you allow subscribers to share with non-members."
The impetus for creating paywall, aside from having the tools at hand, was a need to diversify revenue streams, stem the reliance on advertisers, and remain an independent voice in the tech startup space. "We appreciate our advertisers, and we love hosting events, but for Pando to stay both fiercely independent and healthily solvent we knew we needed to add a third leg -- subscription revenue -- to the stool," wrote Carr and Lacy.