SHOULD WEB SITES CHARGE ENTRY FEE? READERS RESPOND

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In the April 17 issue, Interactive Media & Marketing editors Scott Donaton and Debra Aho Williamson squared off over the issue of whether Web publishers

Roland Sharette, VP-director of interactive resources, J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit: "I agree ....we all want something for nothing. I also feel charging for individual Web sites will make navigation a real chore (not that it isn't now). Somebody has to pay and it can be advertisers if the marketing attributes warrant that. The bottom line is .*.*. setting up site charge mechanisms will probably slow growth and will likely be phased out anyway over time, except for very specific services and content."

David Simons: "It's likely that within a year or so, [the] question of whether WWW sites should charge an entry fee will become as irrelevant as has the hot topic of 18 months ago-`Should advertising be permitted on the Internet?' .... A model currently gaining popularity is `useful sampling.' The site provides true value at no cost and charges for access to additional depth or features. Technology will quickly vitiate the argument that registration and subsequent use of passwords is cumbersome. Properly programmed, a browser can fully automate both processes."

Tom Livaccari, publisher, Word: "As the publisher of a soon-to-be-launched WWW magazine, I was obviously very interested in what both of you had to say with regard to charging for Web site access ....In the traditional media world, advertising dollars finance over 75% of the creation and presentation of content. We are currently working toward financing 100% of our publication with sponsorship dollars and are well on our way. I agree with .... keeping barriers at a minimum at this early stage of the commercialization of the WWW."

Margaret Terrian: "Web pages are wonderful. I'm delighted when a marketer does it right and draws me further and further in to hear their message without making me feel like I'm being sold. But pay a fee to learn how to say, `I feel like chicken tonight' in Italian? I don't think so."

Glenn Gutmacher, new media manager, Collegiate Advantage: "Online subscription fees might be accepted by some populations, but we know that the largest current segment of online users won't accept them-college students. Focus groups have consistently shown that fees won't fly [with college students] .... We're satisfied getting the revenue from advertisers/sponsors. The traffic they get will justify the cost."

Alan Wragg, publisher, Total TV Online: "Yes, marketers should start getting consumers used to paying for information on Web sites. The promise of the Internet is commerce, and as publishers of valuable information, we are interested in revenue. It is perhaps akin to controlled circulation magazines with profit tied to ad revenue. This model doesn't work in today's publishing world. Cost pressures are too intense. The promise of secure transaction on the 'net is what information providers are waiting for."

Add more fuel to the fire by e-mailing the editors at the addresses at the bottom of the calendar on this page.

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