Guardian considers 'members' club' to boost revenue

LONDON - The Guardian is considering launching a "members' club" that would provide extra benefits to readers, such as exclusive content or live events, for an annual or monthly fee, as its digital director Emily Bell ruled out bringing in a paywall.

The paper sent a survey out to its registered members yesterday which asked what would entice them to sign up to the scheme.

Readers were given examples of the benefits they might receive, including a "welcome pack, exclusive content, live events, special offers from [The Guardian's] partners and the opportunity to communicate with [its] journalists".

The survey informed the recipients that the members' club would be put in place to "support the Guardian financially".

The news follows Rupert Murdoch's announcement last week revealing News Corporation's plan to start charging users for access to its news websites, which include The Sun, The Times and Sky News, from 2010.

Following Murdoch's announcement, the Financial Times also said that it was planning to introduce a micropayment scheme for its online articles by summer next year.

However, The Guardian has said that it is not interested in a paywall scheme.

Emily Bell, Guardian News & Media digital director, told LiberalConspiracy: "No, we are not contemplating a pay wall, nor as far as I'm concerned would we ever. They are a stupid idea in that they restrict audiences for largely replicable content.

"Murdoch no doubt will find this out -- even rudimentary maths suggests he will struggle with a completely free model to meet advertising revenue levels across the NI offerings.

"We are obviously looking at other methods of diversifying revenues, so this might well be where some of the confusion has arisen.

"I don't know how many times or how clearly I can say we won't be charging for content on the site, but we won't. Only six months ago we removed the last remaining paywall from web content from around our crosswords.

"Our strategy is entirely around reach and audience engagement -- both if which would be irreparably damaged by pay walls."

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