In a move loaded with ironies, Time magazine (TWX) is joining the ever-growing list of publications saying no to giving away their content online. No longer are all the stories from Time free to read on Time.com; now, as Peter Kafka of All Things D first noticed, many of them appear only in abridged form, with a note directing readers to either the print or iPad editions for the full text.
This move is very clearly about motivating readers to pay for those products rather than about trying to create a revenue stream out of Web subscriptions. In fact, even subscribers won't be able to read full magazine articles on Time.com. "This is not a pay wall -- we're just not posting all the magazine content online," says a spokeswoman. Moreover, it doesn't mean that Time.com is now a paid site. In fact, notes the spokeswoman, "Magazine articles represent very little of the overall content on Time.com, which for a very long time has been a 24/7 site with 90% original content."
There's some logic to this. If you're going to charge $4.99 for the iPad version of your magazine, as Time does (and has been criticized for doing), you can hardly expect anyone to pay that when they can get the same material for free merely by going through Safari rather than through your proprietary app.
But we were talking about ironies, weren't we? Let's count them:
1. This forward-looking move is actually a regression. Time was one of the few titles that resisted the peer pressure to put everything online for free. It wasn't until 2006 that it gave in.
2. Looking even deeper into the historical record -- much deeper -- Time started out as a collection of boiled-down versions of news stories reported elsewhere. In other words, it was rooted in the belief that people would usually rather read snippets -- sort of like the ones now being offered on Time.com -- than full articles.
3. It was only a week ago that Time.com, in complete contravention of copyright law, posted the full text of Rolling Stone's profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. So Time is still willing to offer full versions of long magazine stories -- just not its own.
To be fair, the company has acknowledged that it erred in posting the McChrystal story and said the mistake won't be repeated.
'Time' Pulls Magazine Stories From Its Website