The Mutter Variation

Posted on 05. Jun, 2009 by in Paid Content, Revenue

Steve Brill was not the only guy pitching a pay-for-news start-up to newspaper executives in Chicago last week. News veteran Alan Mutter was also on hand to present ViewPass, his idea for an industry-owned online advertising network.

Click here for the pitch Mutter made to the publishers.

As Neiman Lab reported yesterday, Mutter’s business plan focuses primarily on boosting advertising revenues by serving ads to match readers preferences and behavior, rather than the content on the page. However, readers will register/subscribe to access journalism from the ViewPass member publications.

On his blog, the Newsosaur, Mutter the system likens to the Visa credit card brand established by the banks. Like the model put forth by Steve Brill, Mutter will have a pay-for-content component, but he apparently intends to wall-off a smaller set of news content. Instead, Nieman says Mutter “advocates charging for narrow pieces of content that have value to select readers.” Mutter explains:

If you suddenly put a pay wall on a website that used to be free, you are bound to lose a substantial amount of traffic representing a considerable amount of potential advertising inventory. Once customers are turned off, it will be awfully hard to get most of them back, especially as plenty of free websites will be glad to welcome them.

You could argue, as Steve does, that some newspapers are doing a poor job of selling their existing online inventory. But the solution is to sell the ad inventory better, not to write it off.

Mutter wants newspapers to own ViewPass and has asked them to kick-in the start-up money.

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