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In Praise of the Flat Fee

Variety charges one price for consumers and advertisers. Here's why.



By Bill Mickey
01/19/2012

With the explosion of devices and platforms for distributing content to, pricing and packaging has become a major strategy for most publishers. However, at Reed’s Variety, a flat fee for access to content on any platform has been the way to go. And not just for subscribers—advertisers pay one price for display across the brand’s various platforms as well.

“We don’t mind how people consume our content, just so long as they do,” says Neil Stiles, Variety’s president. “One subscription price buys you access to everything.”

New visitors to Variety’s website have gradually decreasing access to content. They get five free pages on the website before they hit the paywall. “We are currently experimenting with the kinds of content that we can put in front of the paywall that ultimately ends up in a subscription,” adds Stiles. “All of the experimentation is based around that metric, not how we can build traffic and so on. It’s simply how we can attract new subscribers.”

That tactic has emerged from the limited audience numbers of Variety’s market, says Stiles, which is becoming increasingly fractured across different content platforms. “We’re not looking to pry another 150,000 music and film executives. It’s the same group, just consuming content on multiple devices.”

A $329 annual subscription fee gives a customer full access across any device or platform.

Users are asked to register first, giving up some demos for a bit more access. From there, Variety can turn up the marketing heat. “For every 100 new subscribers, 20 of them would have come through some kind of paywall registration process,” says Stiles.

Advertisers are treated much the same way. A flat fee sends creative across Variety’s content models—print, digital, mobile, newsletters and so on. “You pay one price and we put the ad on all platforms simultaneously. If you take a cover slot with Variety, there is an equivalent online product,” says Stiles.

According to publisher Brian Gott, pricing was arrived at by averaging the vagaries of CPMs. “Before we pursued this strategy, we were averaging a CPM rate in the $75-$85 range. Depending on the time of year, particularly during the awards season, our CPM was coming in at upwards of $200-$300. So, we changed our strategy at a moment when quite frankly we didn’t have to change our strategy.”

By Bill Mickey
01/19/2012







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