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Scribd Creates a Paid News Site
BY VERNE G. KOPYTOFF JULY 19, 2011 9:00 AM
Relatively few people are willing to pay for an online newspaper or magazine. But what if they could pay a monthly fee for a vast library of news, like Netflix’s subscription service for movies?
Scribd subscribers will be able to read a variety of publications in one place, minus the bother of having to sign up for them one at a time.
Scribd, a Web site that lets users share reports, personal stories and recipes, revealed plans on Tuesday to do just that. Subscribers will be able to read a variety of publications in one place, minus the bother of having to sign up for them one at a time.
Float (www.float.com), the name of the digital newsstand, is the latest strategy for making money from online news. Publishers have struggled with a formula for getting people to pay. Readers often don’t because there is so much free commoditized news on the Web.
Publications on Float would get a cut of the revenue after its subscription program starts in the fall. Scribd didn’t make it clear how much money publishers would have to share with it and how much subscribers would have to pay.
“This is the time for someone to try it, and if we get it working, then it will be phenomenal for the industry,” said Trip Adler, Scribd’s chief executive.
Scribd has talked with a number of publishers, and some have already agreed to make their material available, he said. But he declined to name any companies.
On Tuesday, Float will introduce a free version of its service with articles from 150 publications like The Associated Press, People, Fortune, Salon and Time magazine. Publishers on the free version will share the advertising revenue with Scribd, although they will not earn money immediately because the ads will not appear until October.
With Float, Scribd joins a number of other companies creating more centralized news hubs like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse, three mobile readers that pull articles and social networking posts into what resembles a magazine page.
Others are paid services like Ongo, which features The Washington Post and USA Today along with select articles from The New York Times, The Associated Press and The Financial Times. The New York Times Company is among several newspaper companies that have invested in Ongo, which costs a minimum of $7 a month.
Another paid service is News.me, which compiles articles based on what is posted in a subscriber’s Twitter stream. The New York Times Company is also an investor in that initiative.
“In any hot space, there is going to be a lot of activity,” Mr. Adler said.
Float’s debut will be available online and through an iPhone app. Android and iPad versions are expected later.
Users will be able to choose the publications that appear in their feed. A separate feed features links sent by friends.
Scribd, a four-year-old company based in San Francisco, has had trouble in the past trying to get people to pay for content. A marketplace it introduced two years ago for uploading and selling e-books, among other published material, has failed to live up to expectations because of the complications of the book publishing industry, Mr. Alder acknowledged.
But he voiced confidence in news and Scribd’s ability to make money from it. Consumers want a one-stop shop for news, not a service with a couple of nice features, he said in taking a thinly veiled dig at his company’s rivals.
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