Last week, Fortune published a story that dove deeper into the Apple Corporation than any piece before it. This story was available in two places. The iPad edition, and the print edition. Customers who wanted more than the mere snippets posted in tech blogs would have to pay for the privilege. Fortune considers it an experiment, to see if a market exists for this kind of subscriber-exclusive content.
The whole Apple article will eventually be available for free online- Fortune recently posted the first chunk of it on their site. And they'll put the rest up- at their own pace- after they've had a chance to squeeze as many paying customers out of it as they can.
Fortune's early numbers show a moderate increase in traffic to their subscription page as a result of the ploy. But sales numbers from iTunes are not in yet and we are a while off from knowing if this strategy will really work. If the money rolls in though, we could be on the cusp of a new paradigm in journalism.
Fortune has wisely recognized that they cannot stop people from posting chunks of the article in blogs and the like. They've limited themselves to reaching out to sites that lift too much, accepting the remainder of the leakage as an inevitability.
Print media has had a number of false messiahs in the last few years. The Daily, the Wired app, and the iPad itself were all expected to bring print into the digital age. Fortune's gambit is the latest in a growing list of schemes to bring the money back to Big Content. The idea is certainly sound enough. The question is- will people pay?