The rumor mill went into overdrive when the blog philebrity.com announced that philly.com, the online home for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, would soon be instituting a paywall. “Philly.com has no plans to become a paywall site,” said Mark Block, a spokesperson for the company. Things are changing, though. “You will have the opportunity to purchase — in a digital newspaper design — the exact same format that you would view the paper as if you were to hold the newspaper in print,” he said. So, an e-issue — easily read with a tablet or an iPad. Philly.com will remain free, with the paid e-issue feature launching in early February. Eric Bradlow, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of Business, asked the obvious.”Is there a segment of customers out there that would be willing to pay for a tablet version of philly.com as opposed to a simple website version?” He answered, “Yeah – of course there is.”
People pay for convenience everyday, he says. But these e-issue interfaces aren’t cheap to develop and maintain. Will it be financially viable? Will it solve the news industry’s financial woes? “The answer is if I knew that, I could leave the classroom and open up the ‘I know everything’ shop and charge businesses a lot of money,” he said. “The answer is, I don’t know the answer.” Other publications, such as the New York Times, have launched such paid e-issues. What remains to be seen, said Bradlow, is if philly.com has enough brand power to do it, too — successfully.